Nokia bags BT’s 5G network contract following Huawei’s noisy exit

Nokia has been selected by BT as its sole 5G network equipment provider in a deal that will also allow the Finnish telecom company to replace Huawei-supplied equipment in BT’s 2G and 4G networks in the coming years.

The selection of Nokia as BT's 5G RAN vendor in the UK comes not long after Huawei decided to wind up sales of networking switches, servers, and storage gear in the UK. However, the Chinese company did not leave before firing a parting shot, stating that the UK's decision to ban and remove it from 5G networks by 2027 will impose a cost of £18.2 billion on the UK economy and will significantly impact the UK’s current competitive advantage in 5G leadership.

Huawei added that the decision to ban its participation in 5G rollout plans would lead to a further delay to roll-out and higher cost to the UK economy and will impact industrial efficiency, global competitiveness, and the associated economic benefits of being a global leader in 5G.

In a press release published earlier today, Nokia said its new agreement with BT will extend BT's Nokia-powered network from Greater London, the Midlands, and rural locations to multiple other towns and cities such as Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Brighton, Cambridge, Carlisle, Cheltenham-Gloucester, Chesterfield, Dundee, Exeter, Grimsby, Hull, Ipswich, Lincoln, Newbury, Northampton, Norwich, Peterborough, Plymouth, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Swindon, Torbay, and York.

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. Aside from offering higher capacity benefits to consumers at ultra-low latencies, Nokia will also reduce complexity, increase cost efficiency, optimize BT’s 2G and 4G networks, and help develop BT's OpenRAN ecosystem.

“I am delighted that BT has extended its partnership with Nokia on 5G RAN, making Nokia BT’s largest infrastructure partner. 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. We are proud to support BT’s 5G network evolution and look forward to working even more closely together in the years to come,” said Pekka Lundmark, President and CEO of Nokia.

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-optimized basebands to build sustainable sites in preparation for future increases in 5G coverage and capacity," the company said.

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