Japan’s NEC Corp to participate in the UK’s 5G deployment plans

NEC Corp., Japan's leading IT giant, will participate in the development and rollout of 5G wireless networks in the UK and will compete with the likes of Nokia and Ericsson to win 5G contracts from the UK's mobile network operators.

The participation of NEC in the development of the UK's 5G networks will help in making 5G contracts more competitive and price-sensitive, especially after the UK banned Huawei from participating in the rollout of 5G networks due to national security concerns.

According to Japan Times, British International Trade Secretary Liz Truss met with NEC Chairman Nobuhiro Endo during her visit to Japan to sign the trade pact and discussed the establishment of the firm’s hub for 5G-related businesses, which will be known as NEC's Open RAN Centre of Excellence.

The confirmation of NEC's participation arrived in the midst of the finalisation of a landmark trade deal between the UK and Japan which is expected to boost trade between the two nations by over £15 billion, drive economic growth, and create tens of thousands of new jobs.

Back in June, Nikkei has reported that the UK reached out to Japan to request the participation of NEC and Fujitsu Ltd in the development of 5G networks as potential alternative suppliers to Huawei. The agency said that the participation of Japanese firms will help reduce the costs associated with the development of new 5G networks in the UK.

Despite the UK government laying a red carpet for its arrival, NEC will have to play catch-up right from the start as both Nokia and Ericsson have scooped up lucrative 5G contracts from the UK's major mobile carriers.

In late September, Nokia was selected by BT as its sole 5G network equipment provider in a deal that also allowed the Finnish telecom company to replace Huawei-supplied equipment in BT’s 2G and 4G networks in the coming years. Thanks to the agreement, BT will henceforth source Nokia's AirScale Single RAN (S-RAN) portfolio for both indoor and outdoor coverage, including 5G RAN, AirScale base stations, and Nokia AirScale radio access products.

Ericsson, which was initially touted to win BT's 5G contract, already supplies radio access network equipment to O2 and Vodafone UK and has stated with great confidence that replacing Huawei-supplied equipment from the UK's telecom networks will not take five to seven years as widely believed.

"I can't get into any definite timelines, but we have been engaged in a number of swaps historically and it will not take five to seven years. We can do it a lot faster. We are ready and we have the supply chain and the local service capability to do it," Fredrik Jejdling, the head of Ericsson's networks business, told Light Reading.

In June, Ericsson agreed to a "substantial network modernisation programme" with O2. The deal involved Ericsson deploying its 5G RAN network across the UK and also upgrading O2's existing 2G/3G/4G sites. "Leading products and solutions from the Ericsson Radio System portfolio will be used in the deployment, which includes new multiband and wide-band 5G radios as well as new 5G-optimised basebands to build sustainable sites in preparation for future increases in 5G coverage and capacity," the company said.

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