Nokia claims its software upgrade for 5G radios will save operators billions of euros

via Flickr from U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos (no copyright)

via Flickr from U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos (no copyright)

  • Refarming low band radio and integrating it with mid- or high-band TDD spectrum is the way to go
  • Automated software changes, no extra kit and no tower climbing required
  • Both operators and users benefit

Nokia has kept up its recent stream of announcements by today providing clarity on how its customers can upgrade its 4G radios to 5G NR with the least cost and fuss - an important move in the increasingly cut-throat cost battle between Nokia, Huawei and Ericsson. 

Nokia says an automated software change will enable operators to upgrade to 5G New Radio (NR) without any equipment replacement or site visits, this saving billions of euros. 

It says the software can provide immediate support for around one million radios, reaching 3.1 million by the end of the year and over 5 million in 2021.  That in turn will  mean operators can streamline the refarming of 4G/LTE spectrum into 5G/NR while providing existing customers with a seamless upgrade path to 5G/NR.

Nokia points out that most of the 5G/NR deployments so far have involved TDD cmWave and TDD mmWave deployment but the next big wave of 5G/NR rollouts will be delivered by refarming existing FDD bands to 5G/NR. 

The ability to upgrade 4G/LTE radios via a software update will significantly smooth out the deployment of 5G/NR FDD, it claims. 

TDD spectrum benefits from enlarged coverage and capacity when combined with already deployed FDD network infrastructure and spectrum bands via TDD/FDD Carrier Aggregation.

“Nokia has always said it can do this, so this is more the launch of a software product,” said Gabriel Brown, Principal Analyst at Heavy Reading. 

“But it is potentially game-changing for both the 5G user experience and network economics. Upgrading existing low band radio, using DSS, is the fastest and most cost effective way to extend 5G coverage,” he says.

  “The radio part in this announcement is important but has already been well communicated. Nokia is now playing a bit of catch-up on the DSS part of the system.”  

Brown explains that in and of itself the low band radio doesn’t have a major impact on user experience. “However, when paired with mid- or high- band TDD spectrum, and operated as an integrated system, the gains can be substantial. Introducing 5G on the low-band means the coverage of the original 5G, deployed in mid- or high-band spectrum, can be increased. 

“This is because by moving uplink signalling to low band  FDD spectrum allows the TDD “capacity” spectrum to be optimized for the downlink,” says Brown. “That means the operator can make full use of advanced antenna techniques such as beamforming to improve downlink data rates and cell edge performance.”

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