Nokia has struck a deal with BT to become the majority supplier of networking hardware used for the firm's mobile networks. Nokia was already the supplier of BT/EE's 3G equipment and now BT has signed up to use Nokia kit for 2G, 4G and 5G services. BT had enjoyed a strong relationship with Huawei dating back to 2005.
We're excited to be extending our long-term strategic relationship with @bt_uk into the #5G arena.— Nokia (@nokia) September 29, 2020
We'll be helping the UK operator to evolve its radio access network to 5G, supporting the goal of maintaining the UK's best network. https://t.co/BxhTLq9BPj pic.twitter.com/C7agVD12nm
The Nokia/BT announcement comes in the wake of the UK government's Huawei 5G equipment ban, which it announced this summer. As a reminder, the government set out the following Huawei hardware eradication timetable, on the grounds of national security and pressure from allies like the USA:
- Buying new Huawei 5G equipment will be banned after 31 December 2020
- All Huawei equipment to be removed from 5G networks by end of 2027
- Existing ban on Huawei from most sensitive 'core' parts of 5G network remains
Mobile network equipment changes, especially those involving in-service equipment, are expected to cost billions across the telecommunications industry in the UK and will also impact the rollout schedule for 5G. The full deployment of 5G might be delayed by as much as three years due to the forces changes. "A massive job now awaits in stripping out Huawei and ensuring minimal disruption to customers," noted Paolo Pescatore, an analyst from PP Foresight.
Being dependent upon a single vendor isn't a great business move, so analysts expect that BT will soon announce support for a further vendor's equipment, at least for testing/contingency purposes. BT had previously picked Ericsson - to replace Huawei's equipment in its core networks (for the most sensitive data/voice communications) so it is likely to continue to become the secondary radio access network kit supplier to BT.