Nokia scores rip and replace deal with Union Wireless

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Union Wireless cited Nokia’s turnkey services as one of the factors in the service provider's contract selection. (Nokia)

Another network deal has been announced as U.S. providers undertake the process of removing insecure Huawei and ZTE gear from existing networks.

The latest vendor to score a contract is Nokia, which will be swapping out existing radio access network (RAN) gear for rural service provider Union Wireless. As the operator’s partner for the government-mandated “Rip and Replace” program, Nokia’s also providing deployment and integration service such as ground and tower work, installation, commissioning and RF design.

Equipment includes Nokia’s AirScale radio portfolio, initially deploying 4G service with a path to 5G down the line.

The scope of the project covers sites in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho. Nokia’s Charles Marsh, SVP of US Majors Accounts, said in a statement that it’s “a complex undertaking as it will touch the majority of Union Wireless’s cellular network.”

There is $1.89 billion in funding allocated for the FCC’s rip and replace reimbursement program, and implement the Secure and Trusted Telecommunications Act of 2019. The filing window for reimbursement opens October 29.

Those replacing Huawei and ZTE are largely rural and smaller U.S. providers.

RELATED: FCC advances $1.9B program to rip and replace Huawei gear

On the vendor side, traditional heavy hitters like Ericsson and Nokia are vying for a piece, alongside newer entrants such as Mavenir, Adtran and others.

In selecting Nokia for the project, Union Wireless Chief Technical and Operations Officer Eric Woody said the operator took a competitive look at the industry and pointed to Nokia’s turnkey services as one factor.

“Out of the vendors that responded, only Nokia stepped up to provide the Equipment and the Services that we required – and Nokia was willing to back its statements to protect Union’s interests,” Woody stated. “Its ability to provide turnkey services and state-of-the-art radio equipment were also contributing factors in our decision to work with Nokia. Together, we look forward to bringing critical 4G and 5G services to our subscribers living and working in some of the most rural regions in the continental U.S.”

It looks like Union Wireless is also using Nokia gear that’s compliant with O-RAN Alliance standards.

“By deploying field-proven equipment that is software-enabled to support 5G and O-RAN Alliance standards, we are greatly minimizing Union Wireless’s schedule risk,” Marsh stated. “And, with our large team of U.S.-based design and deployment engineers, we will help Union meet all of its equipment and services needs as required by the Secure Networks Act.”

RELATED: Mavenir swaps out Triangle’s Huawei gear for open RAN

Mavenir was recently chosen by Montana-based Triangle Communications, in what it believes was the first contract awarded related to the rip and replace program.

Triangle is going with a virtualized open RAN approach as it takes out Huawei network components, upgrading both its core and RAN portions to support fixed wireless access service. Mavenir also is acting as systems integrator.