The mobile operators EE and Vodafone have dropped Huawei phones from their 5G launch plans, as the backlash in the UK against the Chinese company gathers pace.
Huawei was then dealt a further blow on Wednesday when the British chip designer ARM said it would stop licensing its silicon chip technology to the company.
EE said it had dropped Huawei phones from its 5G launch plans as the operator announced it would be the first next-generation mobile network available in the UK, going live in six cities on 30 May.
Britain’s largest mobile phone network said it would switch on 5G initially in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester.
By the end of the year, 5G would be expanded to 16 cities including Nottingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow, it said. EE added that the network would grow to 50 towns and cities in 2020.
EE said it took the decision to pull Huawei 5G phones after Google’s move earlier this week to comply with a US ban and stop supplying its Android operating system to the Chinese company.
Marc Allera, the head of BT’s consumer division, said: “Until we have the information and confidence that ensures our customers will get support for the lifetime of their devices with us then we’ve got the Huawei devices on pause.”
Vodafone, which is to turn on 5G on 3 July in seven cities, later followed suit, announcing it would no longer be offering a Huawei 5G phone at launch. The company was due to start preorders on Thursday.
“We are pausing preorders for the Huawei Mate 20 X (5G) in the UK,” a spokesman said. “This is a temporary measure while uncertainty exists regarding new Huawei 5G devices. We will keep this situation under review.”
Paolo Pescatore, a telecoms analyst, said Huawei’s absence from EE’s initial offering could slow down the adoption of 5G by UK consumers.
Cambridge-based ARM, which is owned by Japan’s SoftBank and designs mobile microprocessors that power most of the world’s smartphones and tablets, said the decision to suspend business with Huawei had been taken to comply with the US banning order.
Huawei had planned to increase production of its own chips after Qualcomm and Intel stopped supplying the company.
A spokesman for the company said: “We value our close relationships with our partners, but recognise the pressure some of them are under, as a result of politically motivated decisions.
“We are confident this regrettable situation can be resolved and our priority remains to continue to deliver world-class technology and products to our customers around the world.”
BT is in the process of removing Huawei technology from core areas of its 4G network, the sensitive parts potentially susceptible to cybersecurity breaches, a continuation of the company’s policy after its £12.5bn acquisition of EE in 2015.
BT’s 5G service is being built on top of its 4G network, but the company says there is no security risk and Huawei technology will be completely removed from its core systems by 2022.
Download speeds could be up to 40 times faster than 4G. Next-generation 5G technology is forecast to underpin an internet-connected world of driverless cars, smart-home appliances, delivery drones and lightning-fast video on the go.
EE said it planned to upgrade its mobile sites to 5G at a rate of 100 a month, to have 1,500 live in the biggest towns and cities by the end of 2019.
However, there are currently few smartphone devices that can support 5G, so people who want to see the immediate benefit will have to buy a new device.
EE is pricing 5G as a premium product at about £5 more per month than a regular 4G plan. The cheapest 5G plan starts at £54 a month, with a 5G handset priced from £150.―The Guardian