Finnish networking giant Nokia has scored a significant 5G win with the news that it will supply 5G radio equipment to BT, the owner of the UK’s largest mobile operator EE.

It comes Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July ordered 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 had warned they would need at least five years, and ideally seven, in order to remove Huawei equipment from their networks.

Nokia contract

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

But now Nokia has announced that it has extended its long-term strategic relationship with BT into the 5G arena, after BT selected it as a 5G RAN vendor.

It is reported by Reuters that Nokia effectively won 63 percent of the BT contract, or about 11,600 radio sites.

The financial size of the contract was not disclosed.

Essentially the deal will make Nokia BT’s largest equipment provider, with the Finnish giant providing equipment and services at BT radio sites across the UK.

Expanded network

BT’s Nokia-powered network, which currently includes Greater London, the Midlands and rural locations, will be extended to also cover multiple other towns and cities across the United Kingdom, the firm added.

The deal will see Nokia supplying 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 optimise BT’s 2G and 4G networks and work alongside BT on the development of the OpenRAN ecosystem,” it added.

It was also revealed that Nokia will provide digital design and deployment for a faster time to market as well as optimisation and technical support services.

Right tech choices

Both BT and Nokia expressed their satisfaction at the mobile networking deal.

“Digital connectivity is critical to the UK’s economic future, creating jobs and underpinning sustainable growth,” said Philip Jansen, CEO of BT Group.

“That’s why BT is making game-changing investments in full fibre and 5G,” Jansen added. “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.”

Nokia’s new CEO also celebrated the BT contract win.

“I am delighted that BT has extended its partnership with Nokia on 5G RAN, making Nokia BT’s largest infrastructure partner,” said Pekka Lundmark, President and CEO of Nokia.

“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,” said Lundmark. “We are proud to support BT’s 5G network evolution and look forward to working even more closely together in the years to come.”

It should be remembered that for 5G networks, three of the UK’s largest wireless providers (EE, Vodafone, and Three) had all used Huawei equipment to build their 5G networks.

The only exception to this was O2, which instead opted to use 5G equipment from Ericsson and Nokia right from the start.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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