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Vodafone Puts Ex-Ericsson Exec in Charge of UK Networks

Iain Morris
6/3/2019
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Vodafone UK has hired a former Ericsson executive to take charge of its UK networks amid security concerns about China's Huawei, one of its biggest suppliers.

Andrea Doną joined the operator's UK business in March after a ten-year stint at Ericsson, where his last role was head of operations for west and central Europe, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He replaced Kye Prigg, who quit Vodafone in the same month to become head of access networks and operations for Canada's Rogers, according to LinkedIn.

Doną will face reporters for the first time as a Vodafone executive during a press briefing at the company's Newbury headquarters on Thursday morning, when he is likely to be quizzed heavily about the operator's relationship with Huawei.

The event comes in the same week that US President Donald Trump is on a state visit to the UK, where he is expected to exert pressure on the British government to ban Huawei from the UK's 5G networks.

The US administration says Huawei's products could include "backdoors" for Chinese spying, a charge the Chinese vendor has repeatedly denied. Trump has reportedly threatened to withhold intelligence about security threats if the UK does not meet his demands.

The UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport is finalizing a supply chain review that will make recommendations about the use of Huawei's products in telecom networks. Earlier reports suggested it would seek to exclude Huawei from core network systems but allow it to continue providing radio gear to UK operators.

A more stringent ban would have major repercussions for Vodafone, which uses Huawei equipment at about 6,000 of its 18,000 UK mobile sites. Scott Petty, Vodafone UK's chief technology officer and Doną's boss, says a full ban would force Vodafone to spend "hundreds of millions" on replacing Huawei's 4G equipment -- to prevent interoperability problems with the new 5G vendor -- and delay the rollout of 5G services.

Ericsson is already Vodafone UK's biggest supplier, accounting for about 56% of its radio access network, and Doną's appointment could augur well for the Swedish supplier in the current environment.

Vodafone is already phasing out Nokia, which supplies equipment for about 12% of mobile sites, and is likely to have drawn up contingency plans in case authorities ignore its pleas and accede to US demands.


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Rival operator BT, which also counts Huawei as a major supplier, says it will "adapt" to any forthcoming regulatory changes. On the radio side, that could mean introducing a third vendor, said Howard Watson, BT's chief technology and information officer, during a recent conversation with Light Reading.

BT currently buys all its radio access network equipment from Huawei and Nokia.

Unlike Vodafone, BT also relies on Huawei for the core network used by EE, the mobile operator it bought in 2016. It plans to phase out Huawei in the next few years, ensuring EE is in line with an internal BT policy to keep Chinese vendors out of core network systems.

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— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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