Nokia CEO announces 5G FIRST, underscores commitment to Verizon in 5G

Rajeev Suri
Addressing press and analysts ahead of MWC 2017, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said Nokia intends to be No. 1 in 5G as it has done in 4G.

BARCELONA, Spain—If the current trend is any indication, the mobile industry will once again be in for a lot of “firsts” being declared this week at Mobile World Congress 2017, and Nokia’s putting it right into the name of the Nokia FIRST 5G string of products.

Nokia 5G FIRST comprises its radio access network (RAN) including Nokia AirScale massive MIMO Adaptive Antennas, packet core and mobile transport solutions, with end-user devices to be powered by Intel. 

Nokia said 5G FIRST is underpinned by technical specifications outlined by the Verizon 5G Technology Forum (5G TF) ecosystem. As a proof point, Nokia is working with Verizon and Intel to deliver advanced 5G services to homes in select Verizon markets such as Dallas, enabling next-generation video and entertainment services or other applications in the future, such as remote, in-home healthcare.

“Our commitment to Verizon is absolute,” said Nokia CEO and President Rajeev Suri during Nokia’s press and analyst briefing at MWC on Sunday afternoon. He took the opportunity to highlight a slew of other things as well, including how Nokia increasingly sees itself as a software company.

To meet early-adopter demands, Nokia plans to make its commercial 5G FIRST end-to-end solution available in the second half of 2017.

The 5G FIRST radio access network components comprise new Nokia massive MIMO Adaptive Antennas for 3.5 GHz, 4.5 GHz, 28 GHz and 39 GHz frequency bands, the AirScale System Module, AirScale cloud RAN technology and software. Nokia has upgraded its AirScale and AirFrame platforms to 5G based on specifications developed by the KT Special Interests Group (KT SIG) and Verizon 5G TF and the platforms will be adapted to 3GPP as standards develop.

Verizon recently announced 5G service pilots being conducted by in 11 U.S. cities this spring. Ericsson and Samsung are working with Verizon in those pilots as well.

RELATED: AT&T, Sprint join 20 other companies in bid to accelerate 5G NR schedule, but Verizon is MIA

Meanwhile in the 3GPP standards arena, a group of 22 vendors and carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, recently announced their support to complete specification documents related to a configuration called Non-Standalone 5G NR to enable large-scale trials and deployments starting in 2019, a move that Verizon has opposed. Nokia also was not on that list of supporters and Suri was asked if Nokia is considering joining that effort.

“We’re a big believer in it. We work with Qualcomm,” and Nokia is absolutely committed to the NR and overall 3GPP standards; it’s also working with 5G TF and the Korea platform because KT and Verizon are the early adopters. “We want to be No. 1 in 5G as we are in 4G” and therefore Nokia needs to work with the early adopters as well as being a strong player in the standards development.  

During his prepared remarks, Suri once again acknowledged that 2016 was a tough year, but he said things are starting to improve and what matters more is how the company has positioned itself for the future, and in that area, “progress has been remarkable.”

The addition of Alcatel-Lucent gives it greater scale in wireless networks, across radio, core and services and across all regions, especially in North America. It reached an expanded licensing agreement with Samsung, and it’s moving further into cable.

“The giants of the internet, that we like to call Webscale companies, increasing need what we have to offer, and we’re going to be there for them,” he said. A strong software business that is vendor and network agnostic has the potential to meet the needs of traditional telco and cable customers as well as multiple vertical markets, he added.

“Nokia is a fundamentally different company than it was one year ago,” he said. “We can do things that other companies cannot.”

Nokia also said it won a contract with Telefonica to provide 4.5G gear in London and Reliance Jio in India to provide a massive fiber solution in the home network using GPON technology.

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