G Wiz

Posted by Voipfone on October 1, 2020

UK phone boxes in London

BT announced this week that it would be replacing the Chinese Huawei spyware equipment in its 5G network with Nokia’s following the UK government’s policy about-turn. This operation being carried out right now in the US is called rip and replace, though in fact it’s better described as replace and rip, because, of course, you can’t just rip stuff out of your network without it collapsing in a heap. Telecommunications has always been a core part in any country’s defence system, so why this weakness has been identified so late in the day is a bit of a mystery.

I’m pleased for Nokia, a company I often have in my mind alongside Lego for some reason, but baffled why the UK – including BT – hasn’t built its own. Ericsson, is another 5G manufacturer from a Scandinavian country – is it the long, dark winter nights? If small countries like Finland and Sweden can produce this gear and find a world market why can’t we?

I read that Japan, a renowned electronics manufacturing country, was approached by BT to produce 5G equipment but was not finally chosen and it’s really strange that American firms are not also firmly in the picture. Why not? But also why not the UK at all? Mobile telephony and data markets are global and growing, why so little competition to supply the equipment for it?

Donkey’s years ago – ie the late 70s – BT or at the time the Post Office, did develop its own core telephone switching equipment, System X being the gear. Using System X, the UK became the first national telephone network to be fully digital but even so failed to develop a world market for it. It’s another puzzle because System X was remarkably good gear:

“Many of the system X exchanges installed during the 1980s are over 30 years old and still in use, giving an idea of their good reliability. The system was originally designed for 15 years of service, and as such has long exceeded its expectations but in recent years has started to deteriorate, with the old plastic shelf runners becoming brittle due to heat exposure. Many exchanges have never been turned off in their entire life, and will only have had process restarts for software upgrades every couple of years or so to give in excess of 99.9998% reliability.”


The worlds telephone networks are switching (sic) from switching to routing now of course; going all IP – finally catching up with Voipfone. And all those digital exchanges will be gone by 2025. But those routers aren’t designed and built by BT or the UK either. Why not?

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