Nokia lives

16 Feb 2017

2017 isn’t very old yet, judging by any calendar you might use, and industry headlines are full of news about Nokia.

Several years ago you would have expected the brand which began life in a 19th century Finnish pulp mill to join others in the dustbin of history, along with the Symbian operating system used by the once conquering Nokia mobile phones.

It has been a near death experience. If any company can take a $7 billion hit on an investment it is Microsoft, but it’s a matter of record that thousands of jobs were written off back in 2013 when the iPhone ruled the world and the Nokia handsets bit the dust.

Since then, the phoenix has been rising, and 2017 seems to be the year it could take flight in the two areas where the brand has survived: the mobile network infrastructure and software play which is the main game, and the somewhat boutique handset spin-off HMD Global.

Let’s have a look at network infrastructure. To be honest, it might as well be called Bell Labs or Alcatel-Lucent because it is an aggregation of these businesses as much as it is Nokia.

That said, in the last week Nokia has announced it will introduce what it will call 4.9G technologies by the end of this year.

The “4.9G” name is cute, but it also has a massive MIMO adaptive antenna which the company claims will enable cell capacity up to five times higher, in addition to a new radio head which will allow operators to leverage unlicensed spectrum.

It may not have been the biggest corporate deal ever, but last week also saw the $370 million acquisition of software company Comptel, best known for selling its analytics tool EventLink to network operators.

The deal is not the same as buying Alcatel-Lucent for €15 billion, but it is forward thinking in that it speeds up Nokia’s software capability, de-risking the infrastructure business and providing other opportunities for expansion.

And as the Nokia CFO Kristian Pullola said in announcing this deal, watch out for other “bolt on” deals this year because the company is on the lookout.

Meanwhile, the ex Nokia and Microsoft enthusiasts who now comprise HMD Global and produce Nokia devices under licence have shown they are both living in the present and the past.

The Nokia 6 , with the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, it testing the Chinese market first and, in proof that retro taste also extends to the telecoms industry, we also hear that the iconic Nokia 3310 – the phone which defined the turn of the millennium – is set for re-release.

As per usual at this time of the year, all roads lead to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

There, we can expect to see Nokia demonstrate its “4.9G” technology with Sprint, utilizing 3D beamforming software to showcase capabilities for commercially available devices operated on LTE.

Many people will get their first look at the Nokia 6 at MWC as well, but I am packing my bags in the hope of being re-acquainted with the 3310.

How I regret giving mine to one of my children, after which it was lost and never to be seen again.

I wasn’t much good at playing “Snake” – one of the key 3310 features - but am keen to have another go, just for old times’ sake.

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