BT and Ericsson have formed a new joint venture partnership to provide commercial 5G private networks for the UK market in what the duo claim is the first agreement of its kind.

The multi-year multi-million-pound deal will combine BT’s expertise in building converged fixed and mobile networks with Ericsson’s 5G network technology and enterprise solutions.

According to a forecast from Market Research, 5G Private Networks are predicted to grow at an average rate of 40 per cent a year between 2021 and 2028 to reach £10.7bn. Both BT and Ericsson claim there is significant demand from UK businesses looking to take advantage of the benefits the new technology can provide.

The deal will enable BT to sell next generation mobile network technology products to businesses and organisations in sectors such as manufacturing, defence, education, retail, healthcare, transport and logistics. Private networks are wireless solutions that provide secure indoor and outdoor 5G cellular coverage, making them suitable for a range of uses in environments such as factories, education campuses and other large sites where security and ultra-low latency connectivity are important.

New innovative applications and IoT capabilities can be enabled through a private 5G network to optimise operations through asset tracking, predictive maintenance, connected sensors, real-time data processing and robotics as part of the development of Industry 4.0.

Katherine Ainley, CEO of Ericsson UK, said: “This ground-breaking agreement with BT means we are together taking a leading role in ensuring 5G has a transformative impact for the UK. The high quality, fast and secure connectivity provided by Ericsson Private 5G can help organisations make all-important efficiency gains that can create safer, more productive, and sustainable business operations and help the country build global leaders in the industries and technologies of the future.”

The deal builds on BT’s £100m investment in its ‘Division X’ unit to accelerate the development of customer solutions which integrate emerging technologies like 5G, IoT, Edge Compute, Cloud and AI.

As part of a pilot programme, BT and Ericsson have already worked together on several major projects incorporating private 5G networks including Belfast Harbour. The partners have installed a 5G private network across 35 acres of operational smart port to accelerate its digital transformation through optimising processes across transport, logistics, supply chain and shipping with Air Quality Monitors, Drones, MiFi units.

BT’s first-ever managing director for Division X, Marc Overton, added: “This UK-first we have signed with Ericsson is a huge milestone and will play a major role in enabling businesses’ transformation, ushering in a new era of hyper-connected spaces.

“We have combined our skill and expertise at building converged fixed and mobile networks with Ericsson’s leading, sustainable and secure 5G network equipment, to offer a pioneering new proposition that will be attractive to many industries. Unlike a public network, a private 5G network can be configured to a specific business’s needs, as well as by individual site or location. They also provide the foundation to overlay other innovative technologies such as IoT, AI, VR and AR, opening up a multitude of possibilities.”

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Author: Richard Hook