U.S. Cellular taps Nokia for 5G network modernization

U.S. Cellular coverage area (U.S. Cellular)
U.S. Cellular is a regional wireless provider, serving some 5 million customers across 23 states. (U.S. Cellular)

Nokia has signed a five-year deal with U.S. Cellular to update the wireless provider’s networks. Nokia will provide its suite of end-to-end 5G technology, software and services solutions in order to build out and modernize the operator’s 5G network.

The plan includes upgrading the network’s 5G capabilities with fresh 3GPP 5G NR standards-compliant radios, and using Nokia’s AirScale radio platform and a cloud-based network architecture.

U.S. Cellular says the deal will enable the operator to offer new services to customers and expand its enterprise business.


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“By keeping U.S. Cellular's network on the cutting edge, we can continue to deliver the innovation our customers demand, gain new customers and add new revenue models,” said Mike Irizarry, EVP and CTO of U.S. Cellular, in a statement.

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U.S. Cellular is a regional wireless provider, serving some 5 million customers across 23 states. The operator has been determined to leverage 5G technologies to expand its business. It conducted several 5G trials with vendor partners using pre-standardized equipment in 2018. Those tests focused on better understanding the propagation characteristics of millimeter wave spectrum. The company has explored 5G for fixed wireless access (FWA) use cases to succeed its current LTE FWA offerings.

The new deal expands on a budding relationship between Nokia and U.S. Cellular. In early 2018 U.S. Cellular announced it would purchase technology from Nokia to more efficiently plan its cell site and small cell build-outs. Nokia has also conducted a series of millimeter wave spectrum tests at U.S. Cellular’s campus in Schaumberg, Illinois.

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U.S. Cellular announced a similar deal with Ericsson during Mobile World Congress, following a series of successful tests on various 5G use cases conducted in Madison, Wisconsin. Those tests included advanced beamforming, massive MIMO and dynamic TDD. The multiyear agreement will see Ericsson's 3GPP standards-based 5G New Radio (NR) hardware and software deployed on U.S. Cellular's 5G network.