BT will use Ericsson’s radio equipment to power the EE 5G network in London and other major cities, heling to fill the void left by the exclusion of Huawei from next-generation networks.
Like most operators, BT has adopted a multi-vendor strategy for 5G that allows it to mix and match Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies from different suppliers. It had hoped to rely heavily on Huawei before the company was banned by the UK government on national security grounds.
All UK operators are prohibited from purchasing new Huawei 5G equipment from 2021 and must remove all kit installed in their network by 2027.
BT Ericsson 5G
BT has estimated the total cost of these actions to be £500 million and has been forced to find alternatives. Last month it agreed a deal with Nokia that will see the Finnish firm become BT’s biggest single supplier of RAN gear, and now it has turned to Ericsson to power the busiest parts of its network.
Ericsson had already been chosen by BT to provide cloud-based 5G core technology, but this deal dramatically expands the scope of the partnership.
Major cities like Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff are expected to account for half of all 5G traffic, while Ericsson will also upgrade 2G and 4G infrastructure in these areas using products from the Ericsson Radio System (ERS) portfolio. This includes spectrum sharing technology that allows operators to dynamically share 4G and 5G traffic on the same bandwidth.
“We’re the UK leader in 5G and are excited to be working with Ericsson as a key partner to maintain that market leadership,” declared Philip Jansen, BT CEO.
“Through this deal, we will continue to drive the best mobile experiences for our customers. The lightning-fast speeds of 5G will help them to develop their businesses, stream a growing choice of content over our network, and stay in touch with colleagues and friends all over the world.”
“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,” added Börje Ekholm, Ericsson CEO.
“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.”
Other countries have also taken action against Huawei, which denies any allegations of wrongdoing, leading to concerns that a reduced pool of suppliers will lead to reduced competition, lower levels of innovation, and delays to rollout.
Ericsson and Nokia have been the big winners from the situation although there is hope that OpenRAN innovations can diversify the supply chain. The UK government has also encouraged the likes of Samsung and NEC to enter the British market.