Huawei scores key Everything Everywhere 2G upgrade deal

Huawei has fought off incumbent suppliers to Everything Everywhere (EE) by securing a huge contract to upgrade the UK operator's 2G network. The deal calls for the Chinese manufacturer to replace around 10,000 aging base stations across the combined Orange and T-Mobile network.

The deal, which will run for four years, is being seen as a significant breakthrough in the UK for Huawei. The company has failed to make inroads into the UK telecoms sector since its win six years ago when it successfully bid to supply fixed-line infrastructure to BT's huge 21CN project.

This new contract, which only includes upgrading the existing 2G, GPRS and EDGE aspects, will replace base stations originally supplied to T-Mobile by NSN, and to Orange by Ericsson and Nortel.

"Customers can look forward to a superior network performance with richer data experience, faster speeds on a 2G network, improvement in indoor coverage and...a better experience for voice calls in line with the 3G network," Everything Everywhere said.

The aim of this new equipment is to provide improved 2G coverage and better indoor penetration, enabling EE to reduce the number of base station sites and lower its power consumption. The new equipment will also see EE move its 2G services onto an all-IP framework, which should lead to lower backhaul costs.

A report carried by The Register indicated that the Huawei kit would also provide sound quality equivalent to the HD Voice standard that is possible on 3G networks.

However, this decision by EE leaves open the option for other infrastructure vendors to bid for LTE upgrades whenever the operator decides to make the move. Huawei is thought to be providing new 2G base station cabinets that would better accommodate its LTE modules when the bidding process starts.

However, the transition to LTE might be complicated by EE's existing 3G network being owned and managed by the joint venture that was established by T-Mobile UK and 3UK prior to T-Mobile merging with Orange.

Separately, Huawei has announced that it is planning to unveil within the next 12 months a range of high-end smartphones under its own brand. Having been a major supplier of white-label feature phones, the company said it now wanted to move higher up the value chain to enterprise and premium grade devices. Huawei said that Google's Android will be its primary operating system, but was also considering Windows Phone 7 as a further option.

For more:
- see this FT article
- see this The Register article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Mobile Today article
- see this V3 article

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