For Nokia, 5G demo at Copa soccer game is just the beginning

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--While Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) June 3 demo with Sprint marked the first 5G demo at a major North American public event, it's not the only demo in store for Nokia. When it comes to 5G tests and trials, Nokia's name is written all over it, along with rival Ericsson.

Nokia EVP Ricky Corker stands next to
the Nokia base station that was used in
Sprint's 5G demo.

Nokia built the base station and equipment used in the demo at Sprint's tent outside Levi's Stadium on June 3, showing off wireless delivery of 4K ultra high-definition video. Nokia says it is preparing for the commercial reality of 5G by providing solutions that will allow operators to quickly transition from field trials to commercial deployments.  

Sprint and Nokia had wide-screen TVs set up so attendees could watch as cameras captured the action around the tent in real time; plus some pre-recorded game action on a separate screen.

While millimeter wave spectrum historically was considered unsuitable for mobile applications due to propagation losses and an inability to propagate around obstacles, technical advances have changed a lot of those beliefs. As companies like Nokia work to create and finalize the standards for 5G, one of the benefits of working with carriers like Sprint is it gives Nokia the chance to work on things like putting objects in front of radios to understand the issues and how to fix them from an R&D perspective, according to Ricky Corker, executive vice president and head of North America for Nokia.

It will probably be 2018 before standards start to lock in, he said, but the advantage for Nokia's customers in North America is it has products shipping today that will be ready for 5G when the time comes.

A lot of wireless technology demonstrations take place during sporting events. To hear Nokia tell it, the virtual reality use case could be far more than just seeing plays of a game from different angles. Whether sports fans want to use a VR headset while they're watching a game live is not entirely clear, it could be a fun experience if fans are far away from the action on the field or celebrating at a nearby venue. Stats and other points of interest can be superimposed on the VR images as well, adding to the experience.  

The nice thing about working with spectrum in the higher bands is it only gets easier. "If you develop and test at the higher bands, that's the hardest part," said Jason Elliott, 5G market development manager for Nokia. If you're able to make it work in there, it's easier to move down band, so to speak.

At Mobile World Congress 2015, Nokia boasted that it was the first to run 5G on a commercially available base station. Its AirScale 5G-ready radio access technology was designed to demonstrate that real equipment is available versus just being a bunch of marketing hype. 

Nokia is working with other carriers as well. In January, the vendor collaborated with Verizon on a 5G field trial conducted out-of-doors and in a residential environment on Verizon's live Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex network. The outdoor-to-indoor exercise involved an apartment in a residential development and equipment running at 73 GHz and 28 GHz.

Sprint and Nokia didn't give any particular reason for using 73 GHz at the Levi's Stadium demo other than that's what was available. The FCC last month granted Nokia a Special Temporary Authorization (STA) to conduct the experiment. Ericsson will be using 15 GHz when it conducts 5G demos with Sprint in Philadelphia later this week; the vendor said it was using that gear because it's what it had developed for use in Sweden.

Nokia is a co-host of the Brooklyn 5G Summit with NYU Wireless and collaborates with universities in China, Europe and the U.S. to improve its capabilities in 5G. Nokia also runs several 5G-related industry projects in Europe, chairs the 5G-PPP association and runs 5G innovation projects with major operators worldwide.

For more:
- see this Nokia press release

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