CONNECTED BRITAIN 2020: BT played down the impact of a government ban on Huawei on its 5G rollout plans, with chief architect Neil McRae explaining it opened opportunities to take a fresh approach to network construction.

During a keynote session McRae said the restriction on Huawei’s 5G kit meant BT “had to change the plan ever so slightly”, but explained the operator had already “planted some seeds” to ease the shift.

“We would rather not be replacing stuff that is deployed, for sure, but we are where we are on that. In terms of our overall plan, it’s not really going to affect us all that much”.

He added the operator had “a fantastic plan to address how we move away from Huawei and align with the government’s expectations”, including intentions to deploy “some really great new innovation and new technology”.

McRae said the company’s mindset was not just to replace its network kit, but to “come out of the end of this even better” than before.

While stating the situation following the ban was not ideal as UK operators now had less choice, he noted BT was working with its rivals to develop ways to increase diversification.

O2 UK COO Derek McManus concurred, stating operators were in discussions with the government on how to encourage diversity in supply chains, and acknowledging there were real opportunities for some of the other vendors.

But he conceded the Huawei ban would have some impact on the industry in the short term.