Nokia Signs 5G Deal as British Telecom’s Largest Infrastructure Partner

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U.K. carrier giant British Telecom (BT) refers to itself as being “the world’s oldest communications company,” first setting up shop as The Electric Telegraph Company in 1846. Responding to the recent ban against continuing to work with Huawei, BT has severed a 15-year relationship with the Chinese telecom and has forged a new alliance with Finland’s Nokia. As BT, the largest provider of fixed-line, broadband and mobile services in the U.K., moves forward with its 5G rollout, Nokia has been tapped to provide the supporting equipment and infrastructure, reports ZDNet.com. 

The support services that Nokia will manage include 5G-ready base stations, antennas and radio access for both indoor and outdoor coverage. The company will also employ its “Nokia NetAct,” a network management service designed to streamline daily network operations like user administration, monitoring, surveillance, and configuration management. 

CEO Pekka Lundmark said, “I am delighted that BT has extended its partnership with Nokia on 5G RAN, making Nokia BT’s largest infrastructure partner. We are proud to support BT’s 5G network evolution and look forward to working even more closely together in the years to come.”   

In response, BT press referred to Nokia as “the right technology choice.” Since BT and Nokia already worked together on 3G and 4G networks across the U.K., the transition to a 5G partnership is expected to go smoothly. PP Foresight analyst, Paolo Pescatore, commented on the pairing, telling ZDNet: “Encouragingly for the U.K., BT has been able to move pretty quickly on deciding on a vendor. The providers in the U.K. have done a significant job in launching 5G in a very short time, and the last thing we want to see is the U.K. falling behind many of its counterparts.” 

“There are numerous challenges for both BT and Nokia,” added Pescatore. “They will be working with equipment they are not familiar with. They’ll need to neatly integrate Nokia’s equipment into Huawei’s, and do that in a way that avoids disruptions in service.” 

BT’s existing networks will need to have Nokia equipment installed in place of Huawei components, an expense that BT estimates will cost U.S. $630 million. Although it’s the largest broadband provider, BT is not the only U.K. telecom working to find ways to move forward without Huawei. The government has ruled that purchases from Huawei must cease by the end of 2021. Additionally, existing equipment must be removed by 2027.  

BT Group CEO Philip Jansen said: “Digital connectivity is critical to the U.K.’s economic future, creating jobs and underpinning sustainable growth. That’s why BT is making game-changing investments in full fiber 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.”

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