Ericsson signs agreement with British company BT

On October 28, 2020, Ericsson announced in a press release a new agreement with BT: the incumbent UK telecommunications operator, owner of EE, the equivalent of Orange. The contract covers 50% of the 5G radio access network (RAN). Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson will deliver 5G network equipment in several cities in the monarchy, including London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff.

The remaining 50% will be provided by Finland’s Nokia, which signed an agreement with BT on September 29, 2020. At the time of signing the contract, Nokia should cover 63% of the BT network. The agreement with Ericsson would therefore have changed the situation. These signatures come in a context where the UK government last July forced its wireless operators to stop buying devices from Huawei. The infrastructures currently provided by Huawei will all need to be reallocated by 2027.

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UK mobile operators rely on two RAN providers so they need to find new partners. Going through multiple providers confirms that if there is an incident on one of the two providers’ network, the service will be maintained. This also avoids investing in emergency facilities. BT has already selected Ericsson to replace some of the network cores now provided by Huawei. Network cores bring together all transmission and switching media and thus establish communication between two points in a network. They therefore support almost all data traffic and have considerable bandwidths that process sensitive data.

While Ericsson is happy, other actors frown

Ericsson, who embodies Huawei’s main competitor in the 5G space, is excited about these two new contracts: “Having already been selected as a 5G network core partner, we are excited to further strengthen our relationship with the agreement that enables consumers to use safe and efficient 5G in major cities across the UK, ”said Borje Ekholm, CEO of Ericsson, in the statement.

Some industry leaders are concerned about less competition: “Supplier selection is important to a healthy ecosystem. It can stimulate innovation and reduce costs,” commented Kester Mann, director, BBC, consumer and connectivity department at consultancy CCS Insight. There is no question of monopoly, however, and the UK is currently considering a solution called OpenRan. The aim is to standardize RANs in order to make it easier to replace a provider with a single software. A practice recognized by Rakuten and its 5G network in Japan that also puts its skills at the service of partners, particularly in Singapore. Nokia also embarked on this path in July.

British politics are part of Washington. The United States has said that Huawei poses a threat to domestic security. The land across the Canal is not the first to break ties. Italy, the only European country that is part of the new silk routes, has forced its operator Fastweb to terminate its contract with Huawei on the core networks. The Chinese company, which claims to be independent from the Communist Party, warns the UK that it will lose thousands of jobs and lose billions in profits from deploying 5G infrastructure. Recipes that London would particularly need in the event of a Brexit.

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