Existing Telus Huawei 4G Hardware Can Work with Our 5G Gear Says Nokia

The race towards 5G networks continues in Canada, with Rogers using Ericsson hardware for next-generation networks, but Telus and Bell still have not revealed their 5G partners.

For Telus and Bell, their existing 4G network uses gear from Huawei, capable of upgrading to 5G through hardware add-ons from the Chinese company. But with the U.S. and its allies clamping down on Huawei over potential espionage concerns, and with the Canadian government undecided on whether or not to allow 5G gear from Huawei, it remains unclear who Telus and Bell will pick for 5G.

According to the Financial Post, Nokia executives held a roundtable discussion with reporters in Toronto yesterday, to discuss 5G. Here, Nokia Canada president Ric Herald said all wireless carriers are in talks with the company for 5G.

“All of them are talking to us about their interest in 5G and wanting to understand what we do,” said Herald. “None of them at this stage are close to making a decision, nor do they have to, because they still have time to figure things out. We’re in discussions with every one of them, as are our competitors,” he added.

Nokia says a 5G decision from Canada’s wireless carriers should come by the end of 2019, to allow time for equipment to be delivered, installed and tested.

Despite Telus and Bell using Huawei 4G gear, Nokia emphasized they still have a “very good relationship” with both companies, citing how their 5G sales pitch is a turn-key, end-to-end solution which emphasizes security along the way.

“Because I’m not there today doesn’t mean I won’t be there tomorrow,” said the Nokia Canada president. “I do have leverage in the accounts because we sell them things.”

Telus and Huawei have previously said the latter’s 4G hardware is not interoperable with rival 5G equipment. A potential Huawei ban would result in Telus removing existing 4G equipment—at a high cost estimated in the millions.

However, Nokia’s chief technology officer for North American, Mike Murphy, said solving this problem is just a technical hurdle, saying they are already working on two mix-and-match networks with other customers. The solution comes down to cost and whether carriers want to spend to make it happen.

“It is most definitely a technical possibility, it’s more of a business question whether they’d play ball to do it,” Murphy said.

Back in January, Telus said Huawei was not a security risk and a 5G network ban would be seen as a “lost opportunity.”

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