BT picks Ericsson for 4G, 5G core, replacing Huawei

BT, along with the U.K. government, has been a bit resistant to remove Huawei equipment from telecom networks. But the British government has been under a lot of pressure from the United States to cut Huawei out. As a compromise, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided in January that Huawei gear must be removed from the nation’s core network. Huawei can supply gear for the country’s 5G radio access networks, but it will be restricted to a 35% cap in the RAN.

Today, BT said it has chosen Ericsson to deploy a cloud native, container-based, mobile packet core for 4G and 5G services. Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core will be deployed on BT’s Network Cloud.

“Having evaluated different 5G core vendors, we have selected Ericsson as the best option on the basis of both lab performance and future roadmap,” said Howard Watson, BT’s chief technology and information officer, in a statement. “We are looking forward to working together as we build out our converged 4G and 5G core network across the UK."

The 5G Core from Ericsson will also advance BT’s goal to move to a single converged IP network. And the 5G Core will help BT to create new services such as enhanced mobile broadband, network slicing, mobile edge computing and vertical industry support.

In Ericsson’s announcement today, the vendor said the containerization of core network functions will enable BT to benefit from greater industry innovation in areas such as automation, orchestration, network resiliency, security and faster upgrade techniques.
There’s a general trend in the data center world to move from virtual machines to containers. And telcos are beginning to jump on this trend as well. 

RELATED: Rakuten’s 5G network will be built with containers

Rakuten just commercially launched its new greenfield 4G network in Japan. But the operator is already working on transitioning its network to 5G, and it plans to use containers, rather than VMs, for its network functions virtualization (NFV) infrastructure as well as part of its RAN.

BT and Huawei

Earlier this year, BT said it expected the removal and replacement of Huawei equipment in its networks to cost it about $658 million over five years. With today’s announcement that it’s transitioning to a new core with Ericsson, it appears BT is on track to get Huawei out of its core by the U.K. government’s deadline of January 2023.

In a recent conversation with Neil McRae, BT’s managing director and chief architect, he said, “Of the telecom vendors available to BT, Ericsson and Nokia are fantastic partners. We also use Huawei, also a fantastic partner. But we feel like we need more choice and capability.”

RELATED: BT develops Ultra MIMO radio, taps O-RAN for insights

BT is currently developing its own “Ultra MIMO” radio. Asked if BT typically develops these kinds of radio technologies in-house, McRae said that ideally, the company would not do it, but the supply chain in the space is very challenged. He was referring to the fact that the U.S. has attacked China’s Huawei to the point that the vendor has been shunned by many countries around the globe. And this has left the telecom ecosystem with just two major vendors in the RAN space: Ericsson and Nokia.