T-Mobile awards Ericsson, Nokia new 5-year deals

T-Mobile awarded five-year deals to both Ericsson and Nokia for the continued rollout of its 5G network, but didn’t specify how much the deals are worth other than to say they’re “multi-billion-dollar” agreements.

T-Mobile last year closed its merger with Sprint, which also used Samsung network gear, but it doesn’t appear that work is carrying over to the newly combined T-Mobile.

“T-Mobile already has the largest 5G network in the country,” said T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray in a statement. “These agreements with our longstanding 5G partners Nokia and Ericsson will help us take our 5G leadership even further, delivering ever-better experiences for our customers for years to come.”

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The “un-carrier” also didn’t say exactly what each of the vendors will be providing, other than expansion of its 5G network for better 5G coverage and “future game-changing experiences,” and advanced capabilities like 5G carrier aggregation.

T-Mobile noted that it launched the world’s first nationwide standalone 5G network last summer and recently completed what it described as the world’s first 5G standalone (SA) data session with New Radio Carrier Aggregation (NR CA).

T-Mobile said it also plans to add advanced technical capabilities like voice over 5G (VoNR), network slicing and multi-user massive MIMO to its 5G network. During an investor event last month, Ray said carrier aggregation for 5G bands is coming in early 2021, and he suspects T-Mobile will be the first one driving VoNR on the 5G network layer.

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In a separate announcement, Ericsson said it will be supplying T-Mobile with gear from its Ericsson Radio System portfolio, including active and passive antennas and support for T-Mobile’s low-band network for coverage indoors and outside. It’s also supplying Massive MIMO capacity over mid- and high bands for fast speeds and low latencies.

According to Nokia, it will continue to expand T-Mobile’s Extended Range (low-band) 5G coverage while also supplying macro and small cells across T-Mobile’s low, mid-band and millimeter wave spectrum, in addition to Massive MIMO in the 2.5 GHz band.

Nokia said the outlook it provided last fall included the expected impact of this deal with T-Mobile, so it doesn’t change that guidance.

Nokia in particular can use some good news in the network supply arena. Last fall, Nokia CEO Pekka Lundmark warned of expected financial challenges in 2021 and indicated plans to invest heavily in 5G. It’s been widely speculated that Nokia lost a $6.6 billion 5G contract with Verizon last year when the U.S. carrier instead chose Samsung.

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Lundmark acknowledged during third-quarter earnings remarks that Nokia lost share at one large North American customer, but didn’t name names. In a December investor relations update, he said that when it comes to Verizon, “we have to remember that they will continue to be among our top three customers, also going forward. There are a lot of opportunities.” He also referenced a dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) software deal with the operator.