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Nokia, Ericsson start winning Huawei replacement deals

Nokia and Ericsson – two behemoths in the 5G equipment space – have been winning some of the big, early contracts to replace Huawei's equipment in US networks.

"We needed a partner that could step up and provide a turn-key solution," said Frank DiRico, the CEO of Viaero Wireless, in a release. The company this week announced that Ericsson would replace Huawei's core, radio access network (RAN), microwave and router equipment across more than 900 LTE sites in Viaero's network, but it did not provide financial details for the effort.

"We felt that Ericsson had the best team to make this project successful when looking at different technology options," DiRico explained.

Viaero's new deal with Ericsson comes just a few weeks after Union Wireless said it would use Nokia's equipment for a similar effort. Union did not disclose the number of sites covered by its new Nokia deal, nor the financial value of the transaction.

Nokia and Ericsson aren't the only vendors cashing in on a US government program designed to finance the complete removal of equipment from Chinese vendors like Huawei and ZTE that have been deemed a threat to national security. For example, open RAN vendor Mavenir recently announced it would provide both the hardware and the software for the fixed wireless network from Montana's Triangle Communications. That's important considering Mavenir and other, smaller vendors are hoping the FCC's ongoing "rip and replace" program might give them a chance to break into a market mostly dominated by the likes of Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung.

There are still a number of companies that have yet to announce their "rip and replace" plans. According to FierceWireless, the CCA trade organization that represents many of the nation's smaller wireless network operators counts at least 15 members planning to replace equipment from Huawei and ZTE. Steve Berry, the group's president and CEO, told the publication that Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Nokia and Ericsson are all potential vendor options.

The recent wins by Ericsson and Nokia are substantial. In recent FCC filings, Viaero said it counted 110,000 customers and that Huawei supplied roughly 80% of the equipment in its network. The company estimated the cost of replacing that equipment could be in excess of $300 million.

And Union, in its own previous FCC filings, said it had invested over $34 million in Huawei equipment for a network that covers 418 cell towers across 90,000 square miles in locations across Wyoming and elsewhere. The company estimated it would cost up to $110 million to replace that network.

The FCC's "rip and replace" program is just the latest in a long series of setbacks for China's Huawei. Nokia and Ericsson have been profiting from the blacklisting of Huawei across the world for several years now. For example, Telia, Telus and Telefónica are among the international carriers that have replaced Huawei equipment with gear from Ericsson and Nokia.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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