Huawei's UK tech eviction reportedly caused Sky to fall on mobile customers

Whatever the cause, MNVO customers not happy

UK government orders to remove Huawei equipment from Britain's 5G networks have reportedly led to outages for customers of Sky Mobile.

Last year, the government issued formal legal notices to telecoms operators instructing them to expunge Huawei technology from the country's 5G networks by the end of 2027.

This followed a long process in which the UK had initially resisted demands from the US government to fall in line with its own sanctioning of China-headquartered Huawei as a potential threat to national security.

However, the Designated Vendor Direction document also specified that telcos must not make use of Huawei equipment or services in their network core after December 31, 2023, and according to the Financial Times, complying with this particular edict has led to outages for Sky Mobile customers.

Sky Mobile is actually a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), meaning that it runs services using the infrastructure of another telco (in this case O2), but Sky also operates some of its own equipment in order to provide mobile services, according to the FT.

Sources linked the removal of Huawei gear from Sky's mobile network infrastructure to the spate of servive interruptions. Sky suffered at least one notable outage in May, and another one in June this year.

We contacted Sky to ask if the outages were connected to the replacement of Huawei network gear, but the company did not respond. It refused to comment to the FT directly on the outages too but did say:

"Sky is fully complying with government requirements on our mobile network, whilst making every effort to ensure we limit any potential impact on customers."

Bill Ray, VP analyst of Emerging Technology and Trends at Gartner, commented that, speaking generally, "the rip and replace process will take a few years, so I wouldn't be surprised if they've started." He added that "replacing kit is always a challenge as the new systems won't have quite the same interfaces as what's being replaced.

"I think it would be fair to say that the process will cause disruption, and any attempt to do it on the cheap will result in more disruption."

The move to rip and replace Huawei from telecoms networks started under Trump's US administration in May 2019, and his successor President Biden has not yet softened the stance.

The UK had maintained that there was no evidence Huawei kit was being used to backdoor telecoms networks, based on examinations of Huawei equipment carried out by GCHQ, but the US continued to apply pressure on the UK and other allies until they fell in line.

This year, the European Commission also got in on the act, with EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton stating that Chinese telecoms equipment posed a threat and should be removed from the networks of member states.

Germany, which has blown hot and cold on the issue of whether Huawei represents a threat, signaled its intention in August to remove Huawei and ZTE kit from the country's networks. This was despite reports that removing Huawei could end up costing Germany's state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn alone upwards of €400 million.

The estimated total cost of ripping and replacing Huawei in the UK is around £2 billion ($2.45 billion). ®

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