BT inks Ericsson 5G supply deal but delays schedule to replace Huawei kit

UK telco engages Swedish tech firm to deploy cloud-native dual-mode 5G core, but rows back on deadline to remove all Huawei technology from mobile core by end of year

Ericsson is celebrating closing a deal with BT to deploy cloud-native, container-based mobile packet core for the UK telco’s 4G, 5G non-standalone and 5G standalone services.

Adding such core network functions is part of BT’s converged network strategy, enabling it to develop 5G use cases with new enterprise and industry partners. But what it won’t be doing is replacing the Huawei technology that it has promised to remove from the core of its EE mobile division network by the end of this year.

The Ericsson 5G core is designed to help BT create and deliver new services such as enhanced mobile broadband, mobile edge computing, mission-critical vertical industry support, network slicing and advanced enterprise services.

Ericsson’s technology, delivered on BT’s Network Cloud, will be a key component in BT’s move to a single converged IP network. It will incorporate network orchestration and automation, including continuous delivery and integration processes (CI/CD), and will be integrated into BT’s existing customer experience management platforms using Ericsson Expert Analytics together with Ericsson’s built-in software probes.

The containerisation of core network functions is said to enable BT to benefit from greater industry innovation in many areas, including automation, orchestration, network resilience, security and faster upgrade techniques. The result of this, said Ericsson, is increasing overall network availability for customers and services while being cost-effective.

The firm also noted that the deployment of its technology would enable BT to meet the increasing demand for enhanced mobile broadband from its customers and open up opportunities for new use cases with enterprise and industry partners. BT is expected to run such services using the new technology by 2022.

Marielle Lindgren, head of Ericsson UK and Ireland, said: “Ericsson and BT have a long history of working together and we are delighted to continue that relationship with this new dual-mode 5G core deal. We have been in the UK for over a century and delivering the next generation of connectivity here is yet another proud part of our story.”

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BT CTIO Howard Watson added: “Having evaluated different 5G core vendors, we have selected Ericsson as the best option on the basis of both lab performance and future roadmap. We are looking forward to working together as we build out our converged 4G and 5G core network across the UK.

“An agile, cloud-native core infrastructure is at the heart of our ambition to enable the next generation of 5G services for our customers and give the UK the world-class digital infrastructure it needs to win in the future global economy.”

Yet speaking with the Financial Times, Watson also confirmed that BT had put back its original target of stripping out Huawei kit from the EE core to beyond 2020. Watson said that meeting government restrictions introduced in January on the use of Huawei equipment in the periphery of the network meant its original deadline was no longer possible and that abiding by the new government mandate would see all Huawei kit gone before 2023, as required.

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