Nokia adds C-band support in new 5G small cell lineup

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The first 100-megahertz batch of C-band spectrum should be available in the U.S. later this year. (Pixabay)

Nokia expanded its 5G small cell portfolio, adding products that support C-band spectrum for indoor and outdoor deployments in the U.S.

New additions include outdoor micro Remote Radio Heads and an indoor pico Remote Radio Head. Both have support across spectrum bands, with mid-band capabilities for 3.7 GHz service, and are part of the Finnish vendor’s AirScale lineup.  

The outdoor small cells target environments like highly populated urban areas, where carriers may want to densify networks but macro cells don’t fit the bill. Network densification needed for C-band deployment shas been a topic of focus since major U.S. carriers accounted for the vast majority of more than $81 billion in total generated at the FCC’s Auction 107.

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The first 100-megahertz batch of C-band spectrum should be available later this year. Of that tranche, AT&T and Verizon won 40 MHz and 60 MHz, respectively. AT&T plans to use C-band gear from Nokia, while Verizon is already installing equipment from Ericsson and Samsung. T-Mobile signed new 5-year 5G deals with both Nokia and Ericsson.

Macro towers are seen as early targets for initial rollouts, but Verizon has said small cells and in-building deployments will also come into play for C-band.

According to Nokia, its micro RRHs help lower operational cost thanks to smaller footprints that can cover a range of deployment scenarios and consume less power.  

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In addition to C-band, Nokia announced its latest mmWave radio lineup is available, targeting places with ultra-high capacity needs like stadiums or airports. Support for spectrum bands used by U.S. include 24/26 GHz, 28 GHz, and 39 GHz.

Omdia principal analyst Rémy Pascal was cited in the release, saying “Nokia has maintained its position as one of the top small cell manufacturers for five consecutive years according to our research. This new portfolio of AirScale indoor and outdoor solutions should enhance their standing as an industry-leader particularly given their support for all key frequency band requirements including the C-Band.”

Nokia SVP of Radio Access Networks Mark Atkinson in a statement called out the inclusion of the latest ReefShark chipsets as bolstering the small cell lineup.

“I look forward to supporting our customers’ requirements for premium coverage and capacity both indoors and outdoors,” Atkinson continued.

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Earlier ReefShark chipsets caused trouble for Nokia and the vendor since switched to custom SoCs. By the end of 2021, Nokia wants 5G products with the new chipsets to account for 70% of shipments.

Support for C-band is key in the U.S. as carriers get going this year and into 2022 and beyond. Swedish rival Ericsson recently debuted new indoor radio units that support mmWave, C-band and the shared Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). The latter are expected in the fourth quarter. Samsung also announced C-band gear, with small cells and indoor products expected in early 2022.