Vodafone 'pauses' use of Huawei kit in core networks amid espionage concerns

James Cook
Vodafone has paused the installation of Huawei hardware in its core network. - AFP
Vodafone has paused the installation of Huawei hardware in its core network. - AFP

Vodafone will pause installation of hardware created by Chinese technology business Huawei in its core networks, the company’s chief executive said on Friday.

The decision by Vodafone places more pressure on Huawei, which has seen its hardware blocked by several phone networks around the world in recent months following growing concern over the business’ closeness to the Chinese government.

Nick Read, Vodafone’s chief executive, said during the business’ earning call on Friday that Vodafone was communicating with security agencies in the UK, but said that he chose to pause the installation of new hardware in Vodafone’s core network due to “general noise” about the subject.

The “noise level is at an unhealthy level across Europe,” Mr Read said of the ongoing debate about the Chinese business. The debate around Huawei risks becoming a “tailspin into more emotion rather than facts,” he said.

Vodafone will continue to purchase Huawei technology for its 4G and 5G networks, but will rely on competitors including Nokia and Ericsson in its core network, Mr Read said. The chief executive warned that a ban on Huawei technology would significantly delay the launch of 5G networks.

The pause on installation of does not affect the UK, Mr Read said, as no Huawei technology is used in Vodafone's core UK network.

A Huawei spokesman said: “Vodafone and Huawei are long-term strategic partners that have worked together since 2007. Huawei is focused on supporting Vodafone’s 5G network rollouts, of which the core is a small proportion. We are grateful to Vodafone for its support of Huawei and we will endeavour to live up to the trust placed in us.”

On Thursday, the Prince’s Trust charity announced it would not accept any new donations from Huawei. And earlier this month, Oxford University said it had suspended all new research grants and donations from the business.

On Friday, Vodafone reported a 6.8pc fall in turnover to €10.9bn (£9.42bn), narrowly missing analyst expectations for the last three months.

Vodafone’s performance in key markets including Spain and Italy was poor, while its overall services revenue dropped 3.9pc to €9.7bn.