No Huawei, Softbank chooses Nokia for 5G

SoftBank Corp., one of the top telecom firms in Japan, has selected Nokia as “a strategic partner” to roll out its 5G network.

The move is significant as non-Chinese companies, including Nokia and Ericsson, are generally seen as more expensive compared to Chinese players like Huawei and ZTE.

Due largely to this price differential, Huawei and ZTE have successfully outcompeted more established European and US providers — including the likes of Alcatel and Motorola — in the market for telecom network equipment.

However, the rise of the Chinese firms has raised concerns in certain countries — especially the US, Australia and some European nations — about the potential use of telecom networks as weapons in any future war or stand-off with China.

They are also worried that the Chinese players have unfairly used their rivals’ technologies to cut down on development costs and offer cheaper products.

Motivated by such concerns, the US recently blacklisted Huawei — considered the most attractive provider of 5G equipment from a price-cum-features perspective. The move could seriously hamper Huawei’s commercial activity by not only denying it certain network contracts, but also crucial chips and technology required for the manufacture of 5G equipment.

Japan, as China’s neighbor, is especially concerned about any possibility of having ‘compromised’ telecom networks inside the country in case of a stand-off with China.

However, Nokia has also been a traditional supplier to Softbank.

“Nokia’s selection for 5G Radio re-enforces the strong relationship between the two companies, as SoftBank turn to Nokia’s end to end portfolio for 5G,” the Finnish company said.

It said its 5G AirScale technology will be deployed across Japan, bringing 5G to both businesses and consumers.

“The 5G investment will benefit consumers by bringing them a 5G enhanced Mobile BroadBand (eMBB) service, with 5G Ultra Reliable Low Latency Connectivity (URLLC) and enhanced Machine Type Communication (eMTC) enabling multiple new applications and services for industries in the 5G era,” it said.

The companies did not specify any timeline for the launch of the network. No country has yet deployed a full 5G network.

However, Nokia said it now has 38 5G commercial contracts, including 20 already announced publicly.