Ex-BT boss to lead UK telco-equipment vendor task force

FILE PHOTO: A logo is seen on a BT engineer's van parked in central London, Britain, February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said a former boss of BT BT.L would lead a task force to advise on opening up the country's telecoms equipment market after China's Huawei was banned from participating in the UK's 5G rollout earlier this year.

Ian Livingston will help create a strategy to boost competition in the sector and build a more diverse telecoms supply chain, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said on Wednesday.

Britain has previously allowed what it terms “high risk” telecom equipment vendors”, notably Huawei, to participate in building infrastructure because of a lack of alternative suppliers.

The market is currently dominated by just three companies: Huawei, Norway's Ericsson ERICb.ST and Finland's Nokia NOKIA.HE.

The task force will also include Clive Selley, the boss of BT's Openreach which operates Britain's national broadband network, and Vodafone VOD.L UK CTO Scott Petty, as well as other industry experts.

Britain’s digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman said the task force would work closely with operators, vendors and suppliers.

It would look also for opportunities to cooperate with vendors who are not present in the British market, he added.

Warman said the government remained committed to its target of delivering “gigabit-capable” broadband nationwide by 2025, although he said getting there would be “tough”.

Britain in January said it would allow Huawei to supply up to 35% of its non-core 5G network, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson, under pressure from the United States, reversed that decision in July, saying the Chinese firm’s equipment must be purged by the end of 2027.

Reporting by Sarah Young and Paul Sandle; editing by Stephen Addison and Michael Holden