Sign and logo above the entrance to an BT mobile phone store in Briggate Leeds

BT and Ericsson partner to build 5G private networks

Image credit: Philip Openshaw/Dreamstime

BT and Ericsson have struck a multi-million-pound deal to provide commercial 5G private networks for UK companies.

British telecommunications company BT has joined forces with Swedish telecoms equipment manufacturer Ericsson to offer private 5G networks to UK organisations, aiming to enable them to deploy Internet of Things and next-generation technologies in a fast and secure way.

The partnership agreement is the first of its kind to offer an out-of-the-box private network to companies, rather than a service tailored to each individual business.

In contrast to public 5G, private 5G networks allow companies to limit connectivity to a group of devices in a dedicated space, where 5G's security and ultra-low latency can be fully utilised in additional services. These networks are also said to provide higher quality connections, offering fewer delays and glitches than conventional Wi-Fi networks.

“This ground-breaking agreement with BT means we are together taking a leading role in ensuring 5G has a transformative impact for the UK,” said Katherine Ainley, CEO of Ericsson UK & Ireland.

These types of networks are predicted to grow at an average rate of 40 per cent a year between 2021 and 2028, when the market will reportedly be worth $14bn (£10.7bn), according to research from

Marc Overton, managing director for BT's Division X, Enterprise, said the British company was working with Sweden's Ericsson both in deploying and operating the networks as well as in putting applications on top.

The partners have already worked together on several major private 5G projects, including Belfast Harbour in Northern Ireland, where more than 1.75 million people and over half a million freight vehicles arrive and depart every year, carrying 24 million tonnes of goods. 

The two companies installed a 5G private network across 35 acres of operational port, leading to higher operational efficiencies and improved processes across transport, logistics, supply chain and shipping, according to Overton.

"We're now into phase two of the project and this includes various use cases such as teleoperation of heavy plant machinery, artificial reality for remote maintenance, as well as enhanced video AI analytics and the use of drones for surveillance and inspections," Overton said.

Under the new deal, the partners will focus on deploying 5G technology in sectors including healthcare, manufacturing, transport and logistics, sites such as large shopping centres or stadiums, and ports.

The global market for private networks is forecast to quadruple between 2021 and 2026. Last week, BT announced that over the next three years it would invest £100m in Division X to advance the creation and adoption of new technologies, like the internet of things, 5G private networks and edge computing.

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