“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”  – Charles Dickens

5G promises a revolution! However, the shape of this 5G revolution, for Nokia and its CSP customers, is still to be defined. At this year’s Industry analyst event Nokia showed how it was adapting to this revolution (both good and bad). Nokia’s CEO Rajeev Suri, showed how Nokia was rising to the challenge of turning 5G hype/vision into a future success; whilst acknowledging the continued challenges in achieving this both technically and commercially.

The overall event was characterised by two distinct 5G themes:

  • 5G for the public operators remains focused at connectivity and 4G capacity upgrade
  • The future of a lot of 5G will be private.

CSP focused at connectivity: 4G+ growth and Fixed Wireless Access

“5G is strapping on massive MIMO to existing 4G”

Vodafone’s CTO Johan Wibergh summed up the reality of 5G for operators today. Operators are pursuing a 4G+ upgrade strategy for mobile broadband and they are using their existing suppliers to achieve this (because this is the only way to make sure key features like carrier aggregation work with 5G).

Nokia’s Tommi Uitto, showed that the business case for 5G enhanced MBB was strong, but that it was only strong based on software upgrade and reuse of existing 4G hardware. The opportunity for Nokia to grow footprint only came from new parts of the network like FWA and millimetre wave. In an environment where operators are unwilling to rip out existing infrastructure for 5G, Nokia’s promotion of openRAN seemed to make a lot of competitive sense.

The future is private?

There is a massive market for private networks but customers don’t care about whether it’s 4G or 5G

Kathrin Buvac, President Enterprise, predicted a massive market for private networks in the future, with potentially twice the number of private network nodes versus CSP macro cells in the future.

The demonstrations and presentations at the event showed a lot of exciting IoT and ultra low latency use cases with real business value:

  • The combination of a drill and LTE was allowing Bosch to sell a device at multi thousand euro price point to manufacturers, because of its radical effect on assembly quality, flexibility and speed.
  • Nokia’s Oulu plant was being used as a test bed for manufacturing automation. This was enabling Nokia to get high levels of automation but also to gain real world experience and understanding of what really matters in manufacturing.
  • The port of Oulu was using private LTE to deliver a strong data platform for the port and its customers and suppliers.

All of these promised a great market for private networking in manufacturing and logistics. What they all seemed to lack was an obvious valuable role for the CSP in delivering them.

CSPs thinking differently!

Telia gave a presentation during the event that pointed to how CSPs can put themselves back at the centre of 5G ecosystem (private and public). Telia are developing an IoT ecosystem of capabilities spanning Devices, Connectivity, Data Storage, Analytics, Industry Applications and Digital Services. Telia acknowledged that they were only differentiated in one of these. However, they were exploiting the opportunity to be the best player that can bring all of these capabilities together for a customer, based on a true understanding of the customer’s needs rather than as a network supplier. Telia were obviously doing something right here, with one customer, the pulp manufacturer Stora Enso, taking their 5G implementation and independently publicising this.

Nokia are clearly bringing wisdom and belief to 5G.  With this we can hopefully look forward to a future “spring of hope” for 5G.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens (a novel about the French Revolution)