5G will happen faster than expected: Nokia CEO

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Nokia’s chief says 5G is coming sooner than you think – and to prove it, he announced the launch of Nokia’s new 5G radio access solution on Sunday.

Nokia unveiled the 5G-ready AirScale Radio Access solution at a media event in Barcelona on the eve of this week’s Mobile World Congress. Billed as the successor to Nokia’s Flexi base station family, AirScale’s cloud-based RAN can run all radio technologies simultaneously in one base station, use any architecture topology (distributed RAN, centralized RAN or cloud RAN), be scaled to “virtually unlimited capacity” and uses 60% less energy than Nokia's existing radio access platform, according to the press release.

Of course, the industry is still several years away from having official 5G standards in place (hence the caveat “5G-ready”), but Nokia president and CEO Rajeev Suri said that the company is being particularly aggressive on 5G development because use cases for it are already emerging.

“I believe that 5G not only must happen faster than expected – it will happen faster than expected,” Suri said.

Suri also said it wasn’t necessary to wait for industry standards to be finalized before launching 5G products, as AirScale can be made compliant with future standards via a software upgrade.

Suri acknowledged that the mobile industry has been guilty of jumping the gun on next-gen technologies – particularly with 3G – that turned operator deployments into money traps waiting for demand to turn up. That’s not going to be the case with 5G, he said.

“5G is different. 5G must happen fast because important use cases demand it,” Suri said. “Autonomous driving can save lives and lower emissions quite dramatically, but it needs the robustness and low latency that today’s systems cannot deliver.”

Suri also pointed to healthcare services, Industrial IoT, smart cities, precision agriculture and smart water systems as emerging apps that will need 5G to truly realize their potential.

“If we know that 5G can help save lives, improve our environment and make our lives better, we need to move faster,” he said. “I say 5G will happen faster than expected because lead customers are already running fast, and because Nokia is going to step up to make that happen. We’re already planning to dramatically increase our investment in 5G this year and unleash the power of our massive innovation engine.”

The AirScale Radio Access solution comprises:

  • Nokia AirScale Base Station, which includes new multiband RF elements and system modules
  • Cloud RAN with Nokia AirScale Cloud Base Station Server running on Nokia AirFrame data center solution
  • Nokia AirScale Wi-Fi, including indoor/outdoor Wi-Fi Access points and Nokia AirScale Wi-Fi Controller running on Nokia AirFrame data center solution
  • Common software across Nokia's radio access including small cells
  • Support services that utilize intelligent analytics and extreme automation to maximize the performance of hybrid networks.

Suri also announced that Nokia’s investment arm, Nokia Growth Partners, has launched a $350 million IoT investment fund to grow the IoT solutions ecosystem. According to that press release, the fund will invest in “promising companies primarily around Connected Enterprise, Consumer Solutions, Connected Car and Digital Health, as well as enabling technologies with a focus on capabilities in big data and analytics.”

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