On Nokia’s Q1 2021 earnings call today, CEO Pekka Lundmark said, “I can confirm that we have new radios coming to the market….both a new massive MIMO radio and also a new baseband.”
He said Nokia’s new massive MIMO radio “will be launched soon.” He said it would have wider bandwidth “than the one from the competitor,” although he didn’t specify which “competitor” he was referring to. Ericsson and Samsung have both made announcements about new 5G massive MIMO radios.
He also said the radio, in certain high-volume configurations such as 32T32R, would be “lighter weight than that of the competition.”
He said the first common baseband for 4G/5G is now delivering to some pilot customers and that full ramp-up would be starting during the second quarter.
“This whole question of 5G radio competitiveness will be absolutely central to the overall competitiveness of our mobile network business; that being half of Nokia as the whole company,” said Lundmark.
Today, Nokia reported that its net sales for Q1 2021 increased 3% year over year from $5.94 billion to $6.18 billion driven by strong growth in its network infrastructure group but watered down by decreases in its mobile unit, which saw sales decline 4% year over year in the first quarter. Its Mobile unit, led by Tommi Uitto, reported sales for the quarter of $2.79 billion.
Nokia suffered in 2019 and 2020, first with a fiasco related to its ReefShark system on a chip, and then with the news that Verizon was not using Nokia gear for its 5G buildout. Nokia lost a $6.6 billion 5G contract with Verizon in 2020, when the U.S. carrier instead chose Samsung.
Of Verizon, Lundmark said today that the loss of that business “started to be visible in the second half of last year, and that effect will continue to strengthen towards the end of the year.”
One analyst asked if there was any hope of a “comeback with Verizon.” Interestingly, Lundmark said, “You may have noticed that Verizon did list us as one of their radio partners at their capital markets day. There’s a lot of Nokia radio in their network. At the same time, it is a fact that we have not announced any large-scale 5G C-band radio deals with them.”
He said Verizon remains one of Nokia’s top three customers. “We have really good business with them in other sectors, and we continue to work with them also in radio in addition to IP networks.”