How Nokia responds to the pressure of accelerated 5G standards and open source

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Hossein Moiin, CTO Mobile Networks, Nokia

There has been a call recently for Europe to "step up" its support for 5G, but what more can Europe do? According to Nokia, the rate of commitment and early deployment in markets such as the US, Korea and Japan, hasn't been seen from European operators. The reason is uncertainty around the regulatory environment.

More could be done with regards the harmonisation of spectrum, and also to ensure that European operators remain competitive. But the challenge here is scale – with around 70 operators in Europe covering a market that is roughly the same size as the US, which has just four main operators. Hence the argument that a more supportive regulatory environment is required, with particular emphasis on investment.

Yet 5G won't rely on new spectrum allocations, much can be achieved with existing resources at sub-3GHz frequencies. One of the three main aims of 5G is to create a network that will support up to a trillion IoT devices. Nokia maintains sub-3GHz 5G is needed here because of power consumption and signal reach, so low frequencies will play a key role in helping get 5G to everywhere that matters.

But as if 5G wasn't demanding enough, the eagerly-awaited 3GPP Release 15 (the first 5G standard) will be split in two parts to allow for an early release. As Hossein Moiin agrees, this adds pressure to vendors. But at the same time, he says it is welcome pressure and also necessary. The emerging new use cases need the appropriate network support, otherwise they risk being substandard and therefore damaging to commercial prospects. This acceleration doesn't come from our need to get products out faster, says Hossein, but from the need to avoid market fragmentation and ensure scale – as scale is essential to keep costs low. "I welcome the pressure," he says, "but it's pressure nonetheless."

Along with the development of 5G comes the move to use more open source software, and for telcos to put together their own "white box" network solutions. This has already resulted in an evolution of the vendor-telco relationship. "That's to be expected," said Hossein. "The ultimate goal is to enable services in the most cost efficient manner." But while he sees it as a welcome development, he cautions that this is not the first time the industry has tried these approaches, and it has, for one reason or another, realised that some vertical integration is needed.

Nokia believes it is the right time to reconsider this and says it is a big supporter of the open movement, but at the same time it is careful to respect intellectual property rights and to ensure that finished products will meet the necessary requirements. "If we can manage this within the context of open source and increased disintermediation," adds Hossein, "it is certainly a welcome move."

Filmed at: 5G World, London, 15 June 2017

Produced and Filmed by: Gitte Daniels  –  Edited by: Gino Isaacs

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