Nokia CEO argues in favor of paid prioritization in net neutrality, introduces 'programmable world' concept

BARCELONA, Spain--Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) CEO spoke out against a main tenet of the FCC's new net neutrality guidelines, arguing that wireless carriers should be allowed to provide faster connections to customers who wish to pay for them. CEO Rajeev Suri also introduced the company's concept of the "programmable world," a new marketing term Nokia appears poised to use in the coming months to set itself apart from the competition.

Indeed, Suri said Nokia's new predictive marketing solution stems directly from the company's new emphasis on the programmable world.

"Net neutrality, this is a tricky debate to have. But fundamentally I believe that access should be open. You should be open and fair in terms of Internet access," Suri said during a press briefing here on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress trade show. "But there are some services that simply require a different level of connectivity and a different level of service. Driverless cars--you're not going to do this in a 'best effort' network."

"You just need to be able to differentiate the quality of service for higher paying consumers, otherwise frankly they should feel discriminated [against]," Suri explained. "To be able to make money like any other industry, you pay higher for a better degree of service, even though you all have that service. Airlines is an example, because ultimately if you don't give them that power to differentiate that quality of service, you don't allow for more investments in your sector, you're not going to get the quality of networks you need, and then it's going to be bad for the consumer. So I think you need to take a long view on net neutrality."

The FCC last week voted along party lines to approve net neutrality guidelines on wireless and wired network operations. The new rules include a prohibition against paid prioritization: Broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for payment--meaning, there will be no "fast lanes."

Nokia's MWC press briefing was primarily designed for Suri to trumpet Nokia's recent financial successes--Nokia posted a net profit of around $500 million in its most recent quarter, beating a median analyst forecast of around $369 million--and for him to provide the broad outlines of the company's next steps.

"We are back after our restructuring," Suri said, noting Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) purchase last year of Nokia's devices and services business. "We are in an excellent position today."

As Nokia looks to the future, Suri said the company is going to work to take advantage of what he called the "programmable world." He said this concept sits on top of a variety of technologies including analytics, big data and the Internet of Things. He said the result will make people's lives easier and more efficient. Suri said the programmable world could stretch across virtually all facets of modern life--for example, he said the combination of the Internet of Things, big data and analytics could allow city planners to offer cleaner water by removing up to 20 percent of water leakage in cities' water distribution systems.

For Nokia specifically, Suri pointed to Nokia's new predictive marketing solution as evidence of Nokia's newfound position and its efforts to break into new markets. He said the marketing solution leverages the company's location and analytics technologies, and allows operators to develop new revenue streams by offering real-time, predictive, location-based marketing messages. He said some tests of the service have shown response rates of 4 to 25 percent.

"Predictive marketing is just a taste of what we can--and will--do as a company," Suri said.

For more:
- see these two Nokia releases

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