KPN to take Huawei out of core

Huawei exits from another Western European mobile network core.

KPN Netherlands will transition away from Huawei as provider of its existing core network, as it engages with a new supplier for its 5G core.

The mobile operator told TMN that as it signs up a “Western” provider for its new core to enable 5G services, it will begin to replace Huawei in its 2G, 3G and 4G (EPC) core networks.

The operator told TMN, “The selection process for the new supplier of the new 5G core will start soon…. we will invite other suppliers for the upcoming selection procedure for the construction of the new mobile core network. Once we have made a decision we will start an implementation process to replace the current suppliers. This will be done step by step and carefully. We cannot anticipate the exact timelines in this regard.”

Although there is no public statement explicitly acknowledging that Huawei is its LTE-EPC provider, KPN did say to TMN, “We currently have several suppliers for our mobile core network, and Huawei is one of them.”

TMN understands from two further sources that Huawei is in fact the 4G EPC provider at KPN Netherlands. KPN also has an ongoing presence on the advisory board of Huawei’s Core Network User Group, and had previously announced Huawei as its 2/3G core provider in 2008.

Once we have made a decision we will start an implementation process to replace the current suppliers

KPN is not alone in seeking to take Huawei right out of its core as it transitions to a new core for 5G. BT in the UK, for example, inherited a Huawei core network with its acquisition of EE, but has since said it will remove Huawei from its core network through 2019 and 2020.

Vodafone said in January that it would suspend purchases of Huawei core network equipment until it more clarity around security concerns and policy.

Heavy Reading Analyst Gabriel Brown told TMN, “This [KPN] is analogous to the EE/BT situation where you have a national incumbent operator working to remove Huawei from the core, primarily for political reasons, but also to de-risk their brands and the threat of loss of business from government departments  and other sensitive customers. As it happens, both operators are in a natural refresh phase for EPC so this is a perfectly viable strategy and not therefore extraordinarily costly or unexpected.

“By 5G core, given the timing, I assume they mean 5G-EPC to support NSA. My expectation is the new vendor would be selected, in part, based on their  upgrade path from 5G-EPC to full 5GC in a later phase.”

These are heady times for Huawei network infrastructure stories, but it does seem like we are seeing Western European operators disengage from Huawei in the core.

KPN may only have 10 million customers and as such be a relatively small domino. Deutsche Telekom, however, is a major public customer for Huawei’s EPC technology, and there will inevitably now be speculation on its 5G migration.