The cost of stripping Huawei equipment out of Vodafone UK’s radio network would run into hundreds of millions of pounds and significantly delay 5G, CTO Scott Petty (pictured) warned, as the operator expanded its rollout plan for the new technology.

UK authorities are currently reviewing the country’s telecommunications policy against a backdrop of accusations of security risks associated with Huawei equipment from other nations, most notably the US.

Although rumours emerged earlier this week the likely outcome of the review by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was a limit rather than an outright ban, Petty emphasised the most extreme outcome would have a significant impact on Vodafone’s 5G plans.

Huawei equipment is currently deployed in almost a third of Vodafone’s 4G base stations, which will act as the base for the non-standalone 5G network it plans to launch later this year.

“If we were forced to remove Huawei from the network we would need to go to the 32 per cent of base stations that are currently using Huawei for radio and replace every one of those with somebody else’s technology then put 5G on top of that,” he said.

“The cost of doing that would be hundreds of millions and dramatically affect our 5G business case. We would have to slow down the deployment of 5G very significantly to go and refresh our 4G network first.”

“That would be the wrong thing to do because [radio is] an area of the network that has very low risk and very low impact.”

5G plan
During the event Vodafone announced it planned to roll out its 5G network into 19 towns and cities across the country by the end of this year, 12 more than it previously announced. Among the new locations are Southampton, Wolverhampton and Plymouth.

In comparison, rival O2 UK plans to launch in four locations in 2019, as of November 2018 EE is targeting 16, while 3 UK also slated 2019 for a launch but has not detailed which areas will receive the technology first.

During its media event, Vodafone also announced it had become the first operator to join drone testing group the National Beyond Visual Line of Sight Experimentation Corridor consortium.