Nokia clinches 5G deal with BT to phase out Huawei's kit in EE network

By Leo Kelion & Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology reporters

Nokia BT

Nokia is set to become a major beneficiary of Huawei being blocked from the UK’s 5G networks.

The Finnish telecoms firm has struck a deal to become the largest equipment provider to BT.

Nokia will now provide additional base stations and antennas to let EE customers’ devices make calls and transmit data via the UK firm’s 5G “radio access network”.

The deal will also see Nokia replace Huawei in BT’s 2G and 4G networks.

EE’s network already uses Nokia to provide its 3G service.

The UK government

announced in July that all the UK’s mobile providers were being banned from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after 31 December, and must also remove all the Chinese firm’s 5G kit from their networks by 2027.

The decision, which was taken on national security grounds, effectively ended a strong relationship between BT and Huawei that dated back to 2005.

Extended relationship

Earlier this year, BT said Nokia’s equipment was used at about a third of its 4G and 5G sites – including some in London, the Midlands and various rural locations – while Huawei’s kit was used at the remaining ones.

The latest deal will extend its use of Nokia’s kit to further cities and towns including Aberdeen, Cambridge, Dundee, Exeter, Southampton and York among other places.

It means Nokia is now set to account for about two-thirds of BT’s radio access kit.

“It was inevitable that some of Huawei’s equipment was going to be replaced because of the government’s decision,” commented John Delaney, a telecoms analyst at IDC.

“The big change here is that BT wasn’t planning to use Nokia’s equipment in many densely populated areas, and now they are. But apart from that it’s not a major departure from their earlier plans.”

It is expected that BT will soon announce use of a further vendor’s equipment to avoid solely being dependent on Nokia once Huawei’s kit is banned outright.

“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,” said BT’s chief executive Philip Jansen in a statement.

BT had previously picked another Nordic telecoms kit provider – Ericsson – to replace Huawei’s equipment in its “core” – the most sensitive parts of its network that route data and voice calls across computer servers to get them to the right destination.

Ericsson is the favourite to be named as BT’s second radio access network kit supplier, and could in time account for more of the 5G masts and base stations than Nokia.

A spokesman for Huawei declined to comment.

Related Topics

  • Cyber-security

  • 5G
  • BT Group
  • Mobile phones
  • Huawei
  • Telecommunication
  • Nokia


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