Nokia has struck a deal with BT to be a core supplier for its 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) in the UK

Previously working with Huawei to build out its network, BT is now planning to use Nokia's services to meet Government demands to remove the Chinese tech company's equipment from UK telecoms networks by 2027.

As part of the deal, Nokia will provide equipment and services for BT radio sites across the UK. The deal also covers replacing existing 2G and 4G Huawei kit. BT already has Nokia-powered networks for Greater London, the Midlands, and some rural locations, which will be extended to cover multiple towns and cities across the whole of the UK such as in Aberdeen, Brighton, Cambridge, Swindon, and York, among others.

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– Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva

From China to Finland

The Finnish company will supply its AirScale Single RAN (S-RAN) portfolio for both indoor and outdoor coverage, including 5G RAN, AirScale base stations, and Nokia AirScale radio access products.

The deal will also see Nokia optimize BT’s 2G and 4G networks, replacing the current Huawei kit, and work alongside BT on the development of an ecosystem complying with the OpenRan specification, a multi-vendor set of standards for radio access networks.

BT will also use Nokia’s ng-SDM and NetAct network management platform, building upon BT’s existing network architecture.

The UK government ruled back in July that mobile providers were not to buy any Huawei kit after December 31 and eventually phase out Huawei's 5G kit from their networks by 2027.

Back when the UK made its decision, Philip Jansen CEO of BT Group warned of “outages" and security risks. "We need to make sure that any change of direction doesn’t lead to more risk in the short term," he said. "If we get in a situation where things need to go very fast, then we go into a situation where service for 24 million BT Group mobile customers is put into question - outages would be possible."

The company previously said removing Huawei equipment could cost it £500m ($627m), with similar figures expected among the other major network operators.

Pekka Lundmark, president and CEO of Nokia, said concerning the recent deal: “I am delighted that BT has extended its partnership with Nokia on 5G RAN, making Nokia BT’s largest infrastructure partner. Our two companies have collaborated for over a quarter of a century in order to deliver best-in-class connectivity to people across the United Kingdom. We are proud to support BT’s 5G network evolution and look forward to working even more closely together in the years to come.”