Huawei UK remains a fixture in UK fiber networks, despite British telecom operators’ attempts to permanently remove it from their 4G and 5G networks.
The authorities ruled in January last year that its share of any 5G or full-fiber network must be capped at 35% by 2023. The government then toughened its position and signaled the need for operators to ensure no Chinese fingerprints remain on the 5G network until 2027. Huawei’s fate with fiber, however, remains undecided.
We are now at the time of judgment. To find out what fiber alternative to Huawei UK currently exists, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) consulted with operators.
In the interim, while DCMS is reviewing the responses, BT’s Openreach division, which is the UK’s largest fiber builder, will not comment on the process. Ultimately, Huawei’s UK business will likely die when it receives a so-called Designated Vendor Direction (DVD) paper.
The full-fiber market has been even less competitive than 5G, so policymakers have traditionally refrained from firing the firing squad.
According to DCMS, introducing an earlier deadline or setting a cap lower than 35% would endanger the resilience of UK networks, given that the market currently lacks a variety of options.
In July 2020, the National Cyber Security Centre observed that “the only other scale vendor in this sector” was hindering security and resilience and that “overreliance on any vendor is harmful.”
Those data are published by Omdia (and Light Reading’s sister company), a market research firm, which discusses the problem from the point of view of the government.
Chinese vendors and Nokia accounted for more than 80% of the global market for broadband access products by the end of last year when government officials were concerned. It was Nokia, with 23.3% of the Western market, that had the highest share.
Julie Kunstler, a principal analyst at Omdia, says the fiber market is evolving quickly. According to her, the industry isn’t just likely to grow, but also become more diverse in the coming years.
Kunstler, in an email, said “new equipment vendors are entering the PON [passive optical networking] market.” Despite the recession, smaller vendors like Adtran, Calix, and DZS are winning contracts in western Europe.”
In fact, Adtran already has a strong foothold in the region thanks to its work for Deutsche Telekom, one of the firm’s two primary fiber suppliers. The other is Nokia.
In addition to the deal that Adtran landed with Openreach last year, DCMS is most interested in the one that Adtran landed with Huawei UK and Nokia last year.
Light Reading reported in February that Adtran stands to benefit from a large chunk of the pie. The multivendor environment should include them strongly.”
Openreach, however, would suffer if a further government clampdown was imposed on Huawei. The company had developed a fiber-optic network that covered about 5 million properties at the end of June and has largely relied on Huawei.
Openreach doesn’t disclose vendor breakdowns, but DCMS puts Huawei’s share of UK full-fiber at 44%, while only 35% of the mobile market is Huawei-owned. Openreach cannot afford to remove it from its operations because it would be time-consuming, disruptive, and expensive.
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