Faced with shrinking sales in its mobile networks division, Nokia is looking to extend LTE as much as possible. Last week, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri told investors the company’s efforts to prolong the life of LTE with 4.5G Pro and 4.9G, which were introduced at the CTIA Super Mobility 2016 trade show in September, are getting traction.
“One customer is buying it, Globe, already now, other customers are in trial phase and we're converting a lot of customers,” he said during the company’s Oct. 27 third-quarter conference call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “Because it is not just belonging for the sake of it, 4.9G gives you 1 gigabit speeds, gives you low latency less than 10 milliseconds to it. It's an evolution to 5G. The more we are able to drive that in the market, the more 4G will evolve to 5G, both on the core side as well as on the radio side.”
Suri told FierceWireless on the sidelines of the CTIA show that the company tries to be good at predicting when technology milestones will come, including with small cells, cloud and 4.5G and 4.9G.
Nokia executives have described their 4.5G Pro product as effectively turbocharging what goes at the bottom of a tower, putting a bigger engine in place to go farther with more carrier aggregation, higher order Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) and better beamforming. 4.9G will have Cloud-RAN, producing an LTE network capable of less than 10 millisecond latency and with speeds of several gigabits per second.
“The reason this is critically important is because 5G, when the radio interface comes in, the expectation is that this is a complement to 4G networks; it’s not a replacement [for 4G," said Phil Twist, VP of mobile networks marketing at Nokia, during a media briefing at the CTIA show.
In previous generations, 3G was intended to replace 2G and 4G was intended to replace 3G.
“This time, 5G will complement 4G,” Twist said.
He noted that early on, 5G will be built for very specific use cases.
Last week, Nokia reported a 12 percent year-over-year decline in net sales in the networks division and acknowledged the slowdown in large LTE rollouts. The company is looking at small cells as a bright spot and recently was recognized by IHS as the top small cell equipment manufacturer in its latest survey of operators. Garter also recognized Nokia in the Leaders quadrant of its 2016 Magic Quadrant for Small Cell Equipment report.
During the third-quarter earnings conference call, Suri pointed to “some swing factors” in the market that could be positive for the company in the coming year. For example, in North America, it “could get a bit more resilient by public safety, FirstNet and other operators targeting public safety and also the 600 MHz spectrum awards,” he said.
Nokia, which describes itself as a disruptor in public safety, is one of the vendors involved in Rivada Mercury, which is bidding to supply the first nationwide LTE broadband network dedicated to public safety in the U.S. The winner of that contract has not yet been announced and FirstNet, the entity in charge of the network, hasn’t publicly disclosed the bidders for the project. Rivada and AT&T are the two current candidates that have announced their participation in the bidding process.