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Vodafone CEO: We will elbow Chinese firm Huawei from our European core networks

Project set to take half a decade and cost €200m

Vodafone will strip Huawei gear out of its core network across Europe at a cost of €200m following last week's fresh guidelines about the use of so-called "high risk vendors" from the UK government and the European Union.

In a conference call with journalists this morning, the company's chief exec, Nick Read, said the decision was made to comply with the updated proposals and will take five years to implement.

"We have now decided as a result of the EU toolbox and the UK government's decision to take out Huawei from the core," he said.

Last week, the EU agreed to let members individually decide whether they would use Huawei gear in their 5G infrastructure, resisting pressure from the US for an outright ban.

The UK government also said it would restrict Huawei gear to 35 per cent of its non-core networks, citing concerns about the Chinese vendor's links to Beijing.

The decision did not please BT, which said the cap will cost it £500m over the next five years. EE, which is owned by BT confirmed to The Reg last May that it uses Huawei's kit in its radio access network (RAN), including in 5G deployment. It told The Reg it pegs its usage as being at "more than 35 per cent", though it plans to "pare that back... [within] the timeframe required."

Read said Vodafone's UK business was already largely compliant with the new British rules and only a small amount of equipment needed to be changed. Last year, The Reg reported that one-third of the company's radio access network was built using Huawei kit.

Read also warned that applying a Europe-wide 35 per cent cap on the amount of Huawei kit within a telecoms network could delay 5G launches between two and five years and increase prices for customers. He described the UK's cap as not an "optimal" solution in the call.

A Huawei spokesperson told us: "In the UK we are not in Vodafone's mobile core; Vodafone did not invite us to bid for 5G core in the UK or for 4G core either. Vodafone said months ago it would pause procurement of 5G [network infrastructure] in Europe."

Last year, Vodafone suspended the deployment of Huawei equipment in its core network in Europe, until governments resolved their concerns about the Chinese firms activities. Read told CNBC that Huawei kit was used in Vodafone's core network in Spain and some smaller markets.

Vodafone said revenues grew 6.8 per cent year-on-year to €11.75bn for its Q3 ended 31 December, according to a trading update released today. European revenues sagged by 1.4 per cent as a result of slow mobile growth in Italy and shifts towards cheaper providers in Spain. ®

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