NSN on path to 5G, but LTE still watchword for Europe

BARCELONA, Spain – NSN's European executive vice president, Rene Svendsen-Tune, said it is too early to talk about fifth generation (5G) technology, and that the infrastructure vendor's future structure will be decided once parent Nokia completes the sale of its devices business.

In an exclusive interview with Fierce Wireless:Europe at the Mobile World Congress trade show, Svendsen-Tune said no one is sure what 5G will be, but that NSN is already working towards deploying the technology.

"It is being discussed but it's too early. There is 3GPP 5G workstream, and NSN is a leading partner, but we don't know exactly what it is. Everybody believes we are on that direction because we are building the dense networks. We are on the path," he said.

The vendor is in the middle of shedding non-core businesses to focus on mobile broadband technologies after buying out Siemens's stake in the business. Svendsen-Tune said the move has not changed the company in the short term, and that details about its future strategy will be revealed after parent Nokia completes the sale of its devices business.

"Nokia has not said anything about the strategy and the structure yet, and it was confirmed…in the press conference by the chairman of Nokia and acting CEO that NSN will be a very important part of the new Nokia, but we're not ready to announce the structure because the device deal has to close first.

"The moment that happens then Nokia will come out and say exactly how we're going to run it," Svendsen-Tune said.

What is clear is that NSN stands to benefit from the cash windfall from Nokia's sale of its device business. "We are a standalone, we are very healthy now, have a strong cash position, very profitable…We can execute on our own, but integrating under Nokia then of course we are stronger," Svendsen-Tune said.

LTE remains the focus for NSN in Europe, but Svendsen-Tune noted the technology has developed differently to 3G, where Europe led the way.

"The global driver for the next phase of this industry is LTE, 4G networks and the massive growth in data. The way NSN played it was that we picked what we called priority markets, Japan, Korea and North America, because this is where the first wave of 4G would happen.

"3G happened first in Europe and then the rest of the world followed. 4G happened first in Japan, Korea and North America and then in Europe. The benefit for Europeans is when LTE arrives in Europe, it works."

Svendsen-Tune said LTE in Europe must be integrated with GSM and WCDMA vertically to create an integrated network. "We do it with the concept of a single RAN so we have one integrated base station in every site, and that's how we go to market here."

European operators tend to pick one vendor per site, Svendsen-Tune said, which makes NSN's single RAN approach a "strong strategy".

The vendor announced a new deal with UK operator EE to expand its LTE network, and Svendsen-Tune said there are opportunities for other upgrade contracts in regions with "huge legacy" networks.

For more:
- see NSN's EE release

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