Bell has decided not to let the federal government’s long-pending decision on allowing carriers here to use Huawei equipment in next-generation cellular to hold up its 5G wireless network plans.

The company announced this morning in a news release with its quarterly results that it has chosen Nokia as its “first” 5G network equipment supplier. Nokia has been a long time Bell supplier.

At the same time, Bell said it’s ready to deliver initial 5G service in urban centres across Canada as next-generation smartphones come to market during the year.

Observers note that using the word “first” means Bell is leaving the door open to buying Huawei equipment, should Ottawa allow it.

Ottawa is still considering whether it will refuse to allow carriers to use Huawei equipment in 5G networks for security reasons.

UDPATE: A spokesperson said the Nokia equipment will be in the access part of Bell’s 5G network. Bell hasn’t announced a supplier for the core of its 5G network. Nokia is the supplier to the core in the current 4G network.

Last week the U.K. government decided to refuse to allow carriers to buy 5G network equipment from “high-risk” manufacturers — presumably including Huawei — for the core of their networks. Carriers could only use gear from these suppliers in access, or outer, parts of their networks.

Partly in response to the U.K. decision, Vodafone, one of Europe’s biggest carriers, announced yesterday it will phase out Huawei gear from its existing core network across Europe over the next five years at a cost of about US$220 million.

For years, Bell and Telus have been using equipment from Huawei as well as Nokia in their existing wireless networks.

Bell’s Nokia announcement comes shortly after competitor Rogers Communications announced it has started to roll out the country’s first 5G network, in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Like Bell, it says the network will become operational once 5G-enabled smartphones become available later in the year.

(This story has been updated from the original to note Nokia will be the 5G access supplier)

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