Huawei’s announcement on Monday of its first big UK equipment deal has kicked off speculation that the Chinese vendor is now poised to roll out 4G/LTE services in the country too. The four year deal with T-Mobile and Orange parent Everything Everywhere will involve a major upgrade of the UK telco’s 2G radio network, allowing it to carry 3G data services over the spectrum assigned for 2G use.
The re-farming of Everything Everywhere’s 2G spectrum allocation follows UK regulator Ofcom’s recent move to “technology neutral” policy, allowing carriers to run 3G services on spectrum previously limited to 2G – HSPA900 in this case. The upgrade of Everything Everywhere’s 2G network will translate into enhanced network coverage and capacity, including indoor coverage, which will allow the telco to rip out duplicate sites and increase efficiency.
The legacy kit being replaced by Huawei includes that supplied by Nokia Siemens Networks, Ericsson and Nortel. Under the agreement, Huawei will replace approximately 10,000 base stations and the associated infrastructure with its FlexiRAN architecture – kit that allows 2G, 3G and 4G to run over the same infrastructure.
Given that Everything Everywhere has yet to choose an LTE infrastructure partner, a successful rollout on this deal could well pave the way for Huawei to feature in the UK carrier’s LTE future. The Chinese firm has struggled to shake-off security and trade-related suspicions regarding its role in Western economies, with the US proving particularly hostile to its presence in markets there. The past year has seen proposed deals between a variety of Western and Chinese telcos falling foul of bureaucratic unease in both the EU and America, making this win – the manufacturer’s first big wireless deal in the UK – all the more significant for Huawei. Last month, Huawei announced its plans to expand its UK workforce to 1,000 people over the next three years. This despite losing out on a bid to supply a network for the London Underground in time for the Olympics in 2012. Huawei was so keen to close that deal, it offered to donate some of the equipment for it.