Vodafone Hutchison Australia has signed a four-year deal with Nokia to supply equipment for the mobile provider’s high-speed 5G rollout, which will see banned vendor Huawei phased out of some parts of the network.
Vodafone chief executive Iñaki Berroeta said the 5G network would be underway in 2020 with Parramatta to be first to get coverage, helping the telecommunications company compete with rivals Singtel Optus and Telstra which have been rolling out their own high-speed infrastructure.
So far, Vodafone has 5G equipment in Parramatta where the telco has been testing the new network with Nokia ahead of signing the deal. These will be the first sites available for the mobile provider’s customers.
“The roll out will start as we begin the year and we’ll begin offering services to customers in first half of 2020,” Mr Berroeta said.
One of the complications for telecommunications companies has been the Australian government’s ban on Chinese vendors from being involved in local 5G rollouts on security grounds. This includes the world’s biggest technology equipment provider Huawei, whose kit has been used for years by Vodafone, Optus and TPG Telecom.
China complained to the World Trade Organisation in July that Australia’s security-based ban on Shenzhen-based technology equipment giant Huawei from local 5G roll outs had expanded beyond the new networks and into existing 4G sites.
Mr Berroeta confirmed would not be any “cross-systems” between Nokia and Huawei at the sites where 5G would be installed.
“The roll out will be based on where we see higher demand for capacity and speeds, which is mainly metropolitan … As we implement 5G we will be switching Huawei products to Nokia,” he said.
“What is clear is that at one point we were ahead on 5G rollout and the decision led by government to ban Huawei has definitely set us back 12 months. We have to catch up,” he said.
Initially some telcos had planned for 5G to be bolted on to 4G services rather than creating new systems from scratch.
“The benefit we have is that the penetration of 5G devices is still limited and it will be for the rest of 2020,” Mr Berroeta said.
However, he said that the launch of the iPhone 5G later in 2020 would likely mean more customers would want connectivity to the network. The multi-year deal allows Vodafone to scale up or down its 5G rollout as required.
Vodafone is still waiting on a final court decision about whether or not the mobile provider can merge with fixed-line telco TPG, which canned plans for the country’s fourth mobile network on the back of the Huawei ban.
“The resolution will be by February. We are really looking forward to getting a positive outcome so we can really concentrate on our plans in the market [and] on building 5G quicker for our customers,” Mr Berroeta said.
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