Technology

BT indicators 5G contract with Ericsson to assist the phasing out of Huawei units

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Testing internet speed on an Oppo Reno 5G smartphone using the EE network.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

LONDON – Swedish company Ericsson announced on Wednesday that it has been selected to supply BT with 5G radios in London and other major cities in the UK.

It did so after the UK government decided to ban Huawei from its fifth generation cellular networks. The move – a reversal of an earlier decision to allow "non-core" equipment by the Chinese tech giant – means UK carriers will have to completely remove Huawei equipment from their infrastructure by 2027.

Ericsson is one of Huawei's fiercest competitors in the race to develop the 5G network infrastructure. The adoption of 5G has been a central theme in a technology spat between the US and China. Washington pressured its allies to remove Huawei from their 5G networks over espionage issues.

Huawei has often denied that its network kit could allow China to spy on sensitive communications and has insisted that it be independent from the Beijing government.

Ericsson said it would provide connectivity to BT's EE mobile unit in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff and manage about 50% of all 5G traffic. Earlier this year, the company signed a contract with the UK's largest wireless operator to expand the sensitive "core" parts of its 5G infrastructure.

"Having already been selected as a partner for 5G Core, we are excited to further strengthen the relationship with this business, which offers high performance and security for 5G to its customers in major UK cities," said Borje Ekholm, CEO of Ericsson , in a statement.

Ericsson's Finnish rival Nokia signed a separate 5G contract with BT last month, stating the deal would make BT its largest infrastructure partner. Industry insiders at the time told CNBC that Nokia would make up 63% of the UK telecommunications group's total network and power 11,600 of their radio sites.

Carriers around the world started turning on their 5G networks last year. They promise super-fast data speeds and smoother gaming and streaming experiences. However, the global roll-out of 5G has so far been hampered by gaps in coverage. However, it is expected to gain momentum with the recent launch of Apple's iPhone 12.

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Katherine Clark