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US Cellular taps Nokia, Ericsson to build out 5G infrastructure

Scandinavian comms tech suppliers on board to support US’s fourth largest telco’s journey to next-generation services

As it seeks to build a stronger network with the latest 5G technology, US Cellular is implementing enabling technology from Nokia and Ericsson to add 5G mmWave capabilities in the 24GHz and 28GHz spectrum bands and to offer citizens broadband radio service (CBRS) equipment and services.

Founded in 1983, Chicago-based US Cellular is the fourth largest full-service wireless carrier in the US, currently providing national network coverage to 5.1 million customers through a 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, based on code division multiple access (CDMA) technology.

The carrier is building a stronger network with the latest 5G technology, part of which will be to deploy Nokia’s AirScale portfolio with Cloud radio access network (RAN) capabilities to provide mobile broadband (eMBB) 5G mmWave.

The multi-year deployment of Nokia technology, beginning now with commercial availability planned for 2021, is designed to enable a virtualised RAN that provides scalable benefits such as significant total cost of ownership (TCO) reduction through automation and operation efficiency gains.

Nokia’s Worldwide IoT Network Grid (Wing) solution will also be deployed to support US Cellular’s internet of things (IoT) and enterprise customers by helping them scale 5G IoT services faster and more cost-effectively.

The Nokia AirFrame open edge solution for Cloud RAN will also be included in the deployments, enabling a virtualised RAN that provides scalable benefits, such as a “significant” reduction in TCO through simplification automation and operation efficiency gains, as well as through the support of open ecosystems. 

“We are pleased to extend our relationship with US Cellular with 5G mmWave technology and enable the company to deliver to its consumer and enterprise customers exciting new 5G services that require lightning performance with no discernible latency,” remarked Ricky Corker, president of customer operations for Americas at Nokia. “This is a big leap forward in the provision of fast, secure and reliable networks in the western, mid-west and mid-Atlantic regions.”

For its part, Ericsson will supply US Cellular with 24GHz, 28GHz and 39GHz mmWave equipment and services to support consumer and enterprise 5G use cases. In addition, Ericsson will provide 4G CBRS equipment and services as US Cellular continues its 5G modernisation programme.

This marks a further expansion of Ericsson’s collaboration with US Cellular. In late 2019, the company selected Ericsson as a network equipment supplier for its 5G network, including 5G New Radio (NR) hardware and software in states such as Iowa and Wisconsin. And earlier this year, Ericsson helped US Cellular increase mobile broadband capacity during the Covid-19 pandemic in select regions, aiding the operator in successfully managing increased customer demand for data.

“Ericsson has a long history of working with US Cellular, and I am excited to see the relationship grow even stronger as we support it on its 5G journey,” commented Rob Johnson, head of customer unit regional carriers for Ericsson. “By supplying 24GHz, 28GHz and 39GHz mmWave high-band and CBRS mid-band radios, along with industry-leading 4G and 5G products and services, Ericsson will enable US Cellular’s customers to take advantage of all of the speed and versatility that 5G networks have to offer.

Summing up the deals, US Cellular CTO Mike Irizarry said: “With 5G mmWave technology…we can provide our customers with the leading-edge capabilities of high-performance, ultra-low-latency 5G. By readying our network with these key foundational network elements, we can offer an even wider range of communications services that enhance our customers’ wireless experience.”

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