Nokia Networks (NYSE:NOK) may have products ready for the 3.5 GHz band by next year, but the certification process will determine when the products actually go to market.
That's the message from Nokia Networks North America CTO Mike Murphy, who told FierceWirelessTech that he sees 3.5 GHz as a technology that is maturing in 2016. Some early products might arrive by the end of the year, interworking with the Spectrum Access System (SAS) database, but a lot of it also depends on when the SAS is ready and certified by the FCC.
Building the actual products isn't particularly onerous, he said, but having the sharing mechanisms in place represents a new phase for the industry and one that's likely to be replicated in other spectrum bands. "These are big steps," he said. "They all have a long-term impact."
Not only is Nokia going to be building new products in this new paradigm, but it's also likely to be seeing new types of customers, the most obvious being Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and cable companies. In fact, Nokia already is working with Google in the 3.5 GHz band. Given Nokia's expertise in 3.5 GHz technologies and its approach to small cells, the company sees a lot of opportunity in using a shared approach.
Indeed, in the FCC's report, it mentioned that the band would be hospitable to a wide variety of users, including carriers, real estate owners, manufacturers, utilities and other large industries. The lynchpin of the whole band, dubbed the Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) band, is the SAS database, which must get certified by the FCC. The FCC said the process is open to multiple entities to apply for certification to operate as SAS administrators. The two entities most often seen as interested in operating such a system are Federated Wireless and Google.
Federated Wireless marked a milestone last month in the launch of its CINQ XP platform, a sort of "Uber for spectrum" in that it will be allocated when and where people need it. CINQ XP is the company's first commercial product that provides a private, cloud-based network for carriers to share spectrum and it will facilitate the use of the company's proprietary SAS once testing and certification are completed. It's unclear whether FCC certification will be completed in 2016 or early 2017.
Looking toward next year, Murphy also said LTE will continue to evolve and while there's a lot of carrier aggregation being implemented by carriers today, it will improve and combine four carriers rather than three next year. "LTE keeps on getting better and better," he said.
As all signs point to Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) being combined into Nokia next year, the expectation is that by adding Alcatel-Lucent to the mix, Nokia will be joining together two large R&D groups, giving the company more people and a larger budget. "Our view is we can put more into innovation," and accelerate some technology and products as a side effect, he said.
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