Ericsson has signed a deal with BT to supply equipment for the non-core parts of its 5G network across UK cities, replacing equipment provided by Huawei.
The decision – which the government attributed to additional US sanctions affecting Huawei’s ability to guarantee the security of its equipment – marked a U-turn from a previous decision to allow high-risk vendors to provide a limited proportion of non-core equipment. Operators have pleaded with lawmakers for sufficient time to replace Huawei equipment, with Vodafone asking for at least five years to complete the expensive and time-consuming process.
Now, BT has chosen Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson to replace Huawei’s Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment. Ericsson is expected to manage approximately half of total 5G traffic for BT and its mobile brand EE, which will be deployed in major cities including London, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff.
Ericsson had already been working with BT on the core parts of its network; the latest deal renders Ericsson an end-to-end 5G partner for BT.
BT’s other key partner in its 5G rollout is Finnish company Nokia.
“In the nine months since the initial decision, we’ve signed significant new deals with two of the world’s leading equipment vendors, Nokia and Ericsson, that will enable us not only to meet our commitments to the UK government, but to continue building out our award-winning 5G network across the UK and to consolidate our leading position in mobile,” said BT’s chief technology and information officer Howard Watson.
“Two deals may not sound like a lot, but the scale and complexities involved mean that getting these agreed in just nine months is a real testament to the hard work of hundreds of people across the business.”
Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm said: “BT has a clear direction in how it wants to drive its 5G ambitions in the UK and we are delighted to be their partner in delivering that. Having already been selected to partner in 5G core, we are pleased to strengthen the relationship further with this deal that will deliver high performance and secure 5G to their customers across the UK’s major cities. By deploying 5G in these key areas, we are yet again demonstrating our technology leadership in population-dense and high traffic locations.”
“5G plays a critical role in meeting the UK’s digital ambitions, accelerating digitalisation of the economy and stimulating next-generation wireless innovation for consumers and enterprise. With leading 5G technology, a robust supply chain capability, and more than 120 years of local presence in the UK, we’re committed to rolling out a reliable and secure 5G network alongside BT.”
With Huawei shut out from the UK’s 5G rollout, network operators have been left with an extremely limited pool of vendors to work with. Lawmakers have discussed how to encourage competition in the market, such as by contributing towards R&D costs, while an industry group (the Open RAN Policy Coalition) has been formed to promote the adoption of interoperable RAN solutions to encourage competition. The group is generally considered an anti-Huawei coalition.