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Government looks to open up telecoms networks supply chain

Former BT CEO charged with driving more diversification in the firms that can supply infrastructure

Those suppliers that have always felt they had a valid telecoms infrastructure pitch but were locked out of government business might be given an opportunity to try to redress that situation.

The former CEO of BT Lord Ian Livingston has been appointed as a chair of a task force to look into diversifying the UK's telecom supply chain to make sure it can reduce the reliance on a handful of vendors.

The motivation of the task force to come up with answers is linked to the decision to ban the use of new Huawei 5G equipment from the end of this year. The ambition is to reduce the exposure that the UK telecoms network has to what are dubbed as 'high-risk vendors'.

The government is expected to publish its Telecoms Diversification Strategy later this year to end the practice of mobile companies being limited to using just three major suppliers in their telecom networks.

The Telecoms Security Bill is also in the pipeline to give the government the ability to control the presence of high risk equipment vendors, and at the same time for Ofcom to drive up security standards.

“The UK is already a leading nation in the adoption and use of digital communications. It is vital that we position ourselves for the next generation of technology, particularly 5G, by having a wide choice of secure, innovative and high-quality suppliers," said Livingston.

"I look forward to chairing this team of experts from industry and academia who can provide advice to government as to how it can best achieve these aims," he added.

The team includes Clive Selley, CEO, Openreach and Scott Petty, CTO, Vodafone UK, amongst others from business and higher education.

“To deliver the revolutionary benefits of 5G networks for people and businesses, we need to be confident in their security and resilience. A more diverse supply chain is essential to reducing our dependence on individual suppliers and improving telecoms security - as well as a great economic opportunity for the UK," said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“This task force will use industry expertise to turbo charge the delivery of our Diversification Strategy. Together we will push ahead with bold ideas to break through the barriers stopping suppliers from entering the UK and put us at the forefront of innovative new mobile technologies,” he added.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the telecoms front BT has launched its Ethernet Fibre to Premises (FTTP) solution for its wholesale customers in a bid to encourage those that have yet made the move before the ISDN and PTSN switch-off in 2025.

“As the UK prepares for the withdrawal of the analogue PSTN network in 2025 and begins to migrate towards fully digitised networks, businesses need future-proofed connectivity solutions that support their digital transformation journeys and their demand for greater bandwidth and speed," said Paul Beacham, senior manager, BT Wholesale.

"Today’s announcement also reinforces BT Group’s ongoing investment in full fibre. We’re committed to growing our FTTP coverage across the UK and are accelerating our FTTP build to reach 20 million premises by the mid-to-late 2020s," he added.

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