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5G

Telefónica Deutschland opts for Ericsson as 5G core partner

Telefónica Deutschland, which operates under the O2 brand in Germany, has finally revealed its choice of vendor for its standalone 5G core network — and it's not a Chinese company.

Indeed, the German operator made it clear it wanted to rely on a European provider for the "security-relevant" 5G core, and named Ericsson as its primary supplier here. Telefónica has previously used Huawei equipment in its 4G network core in both Germany and Spain, but is now favoring a multivendor environment and a gradual lessening of its reliance on the China-based vendor.

Telefónica Deutschland is using Huawei in its 5G radio access network (RAN), however. The operator announced in December 2019 that it would use both Huawei and Nokia as RAN suppliers. The selection of Huawei is risky because of political concerns about the Chinese vendor, whose opponents describe it as a Chinese government stooge and security threat.

As things stand, the German government has yet to finalize its security strategy that will shape its policy on 5G. Although indications are that it will refrain from imposing an outright ban on China-based vendors despite US pressure, it looks likely that all vendors will be subject to much stricter selection criteria.

For now, Telefónica Deutschland is attempting something of a balancing act by selecting a pool of vendors that will enable it to roll out 5G before the government's security guidelines are confirmed. The operator has already revealed plans to start rolling out 5G in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt in 2020. It is targeting coverage of 30 cities and 16 million people in 2022. Telefónica will be keen to grab market share from Vodafone and market leader Deutsche Telekom, which reportedly delayed any decisions about 5G vendors until the government has made its position on Huawei clear.

Elsewhere in Europe, Telia Norway and Denmark's TDC have already jettisoned Huawei when selecting 5G vendors. The UK's BT recently dumped Huawei for Ericsson in its 5G core. In May 2020, it also introduced Adtran as a third full-fiber vendor, alongside Huawei and Nokia, as it tries to minimize reliance on Chinese technology in both its fixed and mobile networks. Vodafone is spending €200 million ($223 million) to replace Huawei throughout its European core networks.

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— Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

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