BT selects Nokia to replace Huawei for EE’s 5G network

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BT has struck a deal with Nokia to replace Huawei’s equipment for EE’s 5G in addition to its previous generation networks.

The UK’s largest telecoms operator acquired EE for £12.5 billion in 2016. EE has used Huawei’s equipment in its 2G and 4G networks while BT itself has maintained a strong relationship with the Chinese vendor since 2005 for its broadband network.

A decision made by the UK government in July bans operators from purchasing Huawei equipment after 31st December 2020. British operators must also remove all existing Huawei equipment by 2027.

“After months of uncertainty over the future of Britain’s 5G infrastructure, it’s reassuring to hear some good news with Nokia sealing a deal to pick up some of the slack as Huawei leaves the scene,” says Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at Uswitch.

Earlier this year, BT said that it was impossible to entirely remove Huawei’s equipment within the 10-year deadline.

Huawei’s access technology is used in exchanges owned by BT’s wholesale Openreach division and currently provides around 70,000 roadside broadband cabinets.

BT believes it will not be asked to replace the existing cabinets within the 10-year deadline as they use FTTC (Fibre-to-the-Cabinet) technology which is being superseded by FTTP (Fibre-to-the-Premises).

Huawei’s rivals are naturally benefiting from increasing pressure on the Chinese firm’s business.

“Nokia is one of a range of established players, including Ericsson and Japan’s NEC, jockeying to capitalise on the Huawei bans in the West,” comments Guillermo Pedraja, Head of Networks, 5G & IoT Consulting at NTT DATA UK.

“Going forward, these big headline deals are likely to be matched by Western telco operators building partnerships with smaller, niche companies in the market – establishing an ecosystem of alternative suppliers of telco equipment.”

Nokia will become BT’s largest equipment supplier—providing equipment and services at the operator’s radio sites across the UK.

Philip Jansen, CEO of BT Group, said:

“Digital connectivity is critical to the UK’s economic future, creating jobs and underpinning sustainable growth. That’s why BT is making game-changing investments in full-fibre and 5G.

In a fast-moving and competitive market, it’s critical we make the right technology choices. With this next stage of our successful relationship with Nokia, we will continue to lead the rollout of fixed and mobile networks to deliver stand-out experiences for customers.”

Nokia will supply its AirScale Single RAN (S-RAN) portfolio for both indoor and outdoor coverage, including 5G RAN, AirScale base stations, and Nokia AirScale radio access products.

BT will also utilise Nokia Software’s ng-SDM and NetAct network management platform, in addition to its Cell Site Gateway solution for backhaul connectivity.

“Our two companies have collaborated for over a quarter of a century in order to deliver best-in-class connectivity to people across the United Kingdom,” commented Pekka Lundmark, President and CEO of Nokia.

“We are proud to support BT’s 5G network evolution and look forward to working even more closely together in the years to come.”

Update: Added comments from NTT DATA UK and Uswitch.

(Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash)

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