BT expects 50% of 5G traffic to use the Swedish company's radio antennas, base stations and other equipment as they move to ditch Huawei. The switch to Ericsson will mean the EE network is not totally dependent on RAN provider Nokia.
BT has moved away from Huawei after the government told them to remove the Chinese tech giant from its communication network. Ericsson will now handle urban deployment across the UK.
Ministers announced in July that UK mobile providers should stop buying Huawei 5G telecoms infrastructure by the end of December. Any infrastructure already purchased will need to be replaced by 2027. This was a direct result of sanctions imposed by Washington who claim Huawei is a national security threat, something the company denies.
Once the deployment is completed, Ericsson will complement Nokia's expertise in tech to cover rural areas. Ericsson's products will replace Huawei's and form part of the sensitive core of the network routing data and voice calls through their servers.
Huawei has released a report claiming that its removal from the UK's 5G rollout could cost thousands of jobs and millions in economic benefits if the project takes longer to complete. Huawei was dubbed a 'high risk' supplier by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).
In July, Andrea Dona, head of networks at Vodafone UK, and Howard Watson, chief technology and information officer at BT Group told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that ripping out Huawei's infrastructure from established 3G, 4G and nascent 5G networks would cost billions.
However, BT appear to have bitten the bullet and will benefit from Ericsson software solutions including Spectrum Sharing for smooth and dynamic sharing of 4G and 5G traffic, ensuring a fast and cost-effective migration to the new faster network.
The best 5G network
BT CEO Philip Jansen said the company was delivering the best network to customers by deploying Ericsson's cloud native dual-mode 5G Core solution. He said the partnership would drive the best 5G experience for customers with lightning fast speeds. This in turn will deliver greater business productivity, better connectivity and higher streaming speeds.
Ericsson president and CEO, Börje Ekholm, said his company were delighted to be helping BT deliver on its clear direction of travel with 5G, noting that the new network will be central to the UK's digital ambitions for the economy, enterprise and consumers.
The banning of Huawei has come at a price however, exposing the issue of diversity in the UK's comms supply chain. But while some industry leader have expressed concerns that reduced competition could lead to rising costs, the government has set up a task force to reduce reliance on so-called high risk suppliers like Huawei.
UK mobile operators currently rely on technology from just three providers, Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia. In the longer term the industry is exploring the OpenRAN solution which could eventually standardise the hardware used in RAN networks. This in turn could lead to suppliers being switched by software alone and would avoid the need to rip out and replace costly hardware.