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BT Makes Nokia its Largest UK 5G Mobile Equipment Supplier

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020 (9:56 am) - Score 1,872
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Broadband and mobile giant BT (EE) has today announced a new deal that, as part of their on-going work to phase-out Huawei, will turn Finnish telecoms firm Nokia into their “largest infrastructure partner” for ultrafast 5G based Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment and related UK network coverage.

BT has already been working with Nokia‘s 5G kit for a few years, although until recently the Chinese firm Huawei was still considered to be their primary supplier. Naturally all of that changed in July, after the UK Government labelled Huawei as a “high-risk vendor” and moved to ban all new core and non-core 5G kit from 31st December 2020 (here).

In response BT is predictably doubling down on their existing relationship with Nokia (note: they also work with Ericsson on their 5G core etc.). The operator’s Nokia-powered network, which currently includes Greater London, the Midlands and various rural locations, will now be extended to also cover multiple other towns and cities across the United Kingdom.

Nokia will thus 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. The deal will also see Nokia optimize BT’s existing 2G and 4G networks and work alongside them on the development of their future OpenRAN ecosystem.

The operator will similarly utilize Nokia Software’s ng-SDM and NetAct network management platform to support their 5G services. These build upon the existing network architecture and provide an immediate cornerstone and single platform for new 5G-based services. Finally, Nokia’s Cell Site Gateway product will be deployed to provide key backhaul connectivity.

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.”

Pekka Lundmark, President and CEO of Nokia, said:

“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.”

Some of the other locations where you can expect to be served by Nokia’s 5G network include 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, York.

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8 Responses
  1. Avatar Gareth says:

    I don’t know much about Nokia’s equipment business, but if Nokia replace all of Huawei’s equipment in multiple countries, what would then stop a Chinese company then buying up Nokia? Wouldn’t they then be in the same situation?

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I think they’d be more likely to retaliate against Nokia and Ericsson than try to buy them out (we’ve already seen a few signs of this). But if they did the latter then I imagine it wouldn’t get past the regulators.

    2. Avatar Optimist says:

      China can certainly afford to buy out or crush their competitors if reports that the UK is still giving them £millions of taxpayers’ money in foreign aid are to be believed.

    3. Avatar CarlT says:

      A takeover of Nokia would fall within the purview of both Finnish authorities and the European Union.

      There are plenty of companies worldwide that could acquire Nokia in theory. In practice quite a different story.

    4. Avatar CarlT says:

      Just FYI Nokia are the exclusive supplier of 5G to Taiwan and supply equipment to many countries worldwide that wouldn’t be delighted with Chinese involvement.

      The chances of Nokia’s board wanting to be sold to a Chinese company are minimal. The chances of regulators, etc, allowing it to happen are even lower.

    5. Avatar cdh1981 says:

      They’re pretty much Chinese these days anyway, the majority of their equipment is manufactured in China, and the smartphone side (though now separate) is owned by Foxconn.

      This “scary Huawei who are going to hack us all into submission and bring down our telecommunications systems” perpetrated by tin-foil-hat wearing people making sheep noises, is wearing extremely thin now. If we (UK / USA) still had decent home grown telecommunication equipment engineering companies, there would be no need to drive a Chinese one to the brink of collapse on a political whim.

  2. Avatar Julian says:

    The RAN side of things is largely irrelevant and gets serviced/changed all the time so this is pretty much a non-announcement.

    The more important question is what about the CPE equipment in peoples homes, such as ONTs and routers and 5G stations?

  3. Avatar Mike Allen says:

    “If we (UK / USA) still had decent home grown telecommunication equipment engineering companies, there would be no need to drive a Chinese one to the brink of collapse on a political whim”

    if there was a level playing field they could probably compete – but there isn’t so much of the sector went out of business.

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