BT Signs 5G Deal With Ericsson For EE Network

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Swedish equipment supplier Ericsson wins BT contract to supply kit for UK 5G network, joining Nokia as major supplier for EE

BT has added another Scandinavian network equipment supplier for its 5G network for EE, in a further step to remove Huawei from its networks.

Ericsson has now announced it “will be a key BT partner for 5G deployment in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff and other major cities, managing around 50 percent of their total 5G traffic.”

The move is part of BT’s strategy to remove Huawei equipment, and comes after BT signed a deal with Nokia last month for it to supply 5G radio equipment.

Ericsson's headquarters in Sweden. Ericsson
Ericsson’s headquarters in Sweden. Ericsson

Ericsson contract

The UK government and Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July ordered all Huawei equipment to be completely purged from Britain’s 5G network by 2027.

That grace period eased some short term pain for mobile operators, after they warned they would need at least five years, and ideally seven, in order to remove Huawei equipment from their networks.

In April BT had said that it would shift all core mobile traffic away from Huawei kit and onto Ericsson core equipment by 2023.

This new contract builds on that contract BT signed earlier this year for Ericsson’s core technology.

And with Nokia’s contract win in September, it means that it and Ericsson will be the two main Radio Access Network (RAN) suppliers for EE going forward.

Once the deployment is completed, Ericsson will manage around 50 percent of BT’s 5G traffic, the Swedish company said. The Swedish company will also modernise EE’s existing 2G and 4G radio networks.

Delighted supplier

“Our customers deserve the best network and we are delivering,” explained Philip Jansen, CEO of BT. “We’re the UK leader in 5G and are excited to be working with Ericsson as a key partner to maintain that market leadership.”

In June this year Ericsson’s president for Europe, Arun Bansal, had said his firm would be capable of replacing all of the Huawei equipment in the UK’s 5G network.

And it is clear the Swedish networking giant is very pleased at the additional BT contract win, which follows Ericsson also recently winning a 5G equipment contract with Dutch telecom KPN.

“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,” said Börje Ekholm, President and CEO of Ericsson. “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,” said Ekholm. “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.”

Swedish clampdown

The news is another development of the sidelining of Huawei in Europe.

Last week the Swedish telecoms regulator imposed licence conditions for local mobile operators looking to take part in its upcoming 5G spectrum auctions.

It demanded that Swedish mobile operators bidding in the 5G auction had to remove Huawei and ZTE gear from existing central functions by January 2025 at the latest.

It came after assessments by the Swedish Armed Forces and security service, which called China “one of the biggest threats against Sweden.”

China responded quickly said Sweden’s Huawei ban was ‘wrong’ and warned of ‘negative impact’ for China-Sweden trade.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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