Nokia is participating in what sounds like a unique competition: It’s asking creative types to propose designs for 5G base stations that will be installed throughout the city of Helsinki, Finland. These base stations will be situated in public spaces, so they need to look good.
Nokia, which is headquartered in Espoo, just outside of Helsinki, has worked with the city of Helsinki for many years and with many different projects, sometimes also partnering with Finnish operator Elisa. This particular competition is being done in conjunction with the design organization Ornamo Art and Design Finland.
“We want to open our collaboration to many more people,” wrote Jane Rygaard, head of marketing for Nokia advanced mobile networks solutions in a blog post. “We want to work together to create something for the city that reflects a focus on design and the desire for long-term vision, as well as brings some exciting technology to the people.”
Rygaard said it would be easy to use a standard base station design for the network, installing them around the city and running technical trials on them. However, the entire point of the network is to discover, design and develop services that are open and engaging for the community, allowing citizens to contribute and give feedback along the way.
The intent of the competition is to find a design that fits as seamlessly into the surrounding city environment as possible. It will have to be sympathetic to Helsinki’s "existing good looks," as well as being a functional piece of technology. “Style as well as substance—both are crucial,” she said.
Designers, companies and researchers from around the world are invited to participate—anyone who wants to play a part in helping Helsinki develop into a digital city that works for its community. According to the rules, the base station is expected to be of refined design that smoothly fits in a variety of environments and takes into account the user experience, which includes not only interaction with users but ease of maintenance and installation.
The competition runs until Nov. 14, and the top three winners will get part of the total prize fund that amounts to nearly $41,000.
While the U.S. is ahead of the pack in terms of early commercial 5G rollouts, Finland is among the lead countries expected to roll out commercial networks over the next year. Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri told FierceWirelessTech last week that he sees the U.S. going first, followed by South Korea, Japan, China and some Middle Eastern and Nordic countries, including Finland.
Interestingly, Verizon had a 5G node in and outside the Los Angeles Convention Center for Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCA) last week. Verizon Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer said during a CTO panel that the city wanted the 5G node to blend in, so it was painted gray. “That will be a part of the challenge for all of us going forward is aesthetics” in both outdoor and indoor locations, she said. The live 5G nodes located at the convention center were expected to stay put after the MWCA event.