Can Nokia afford to back Europe too hard on 5G?

Nokia Networks CTO, Hossein Moiin

Nokia Networks CTO, Hossein Moiin, has spoken out on his hopes for spectrum and suggested that Europe is the natural leader for 5G technology.

Speaking to Mobile World Live, Moiin claimed that spectrum was a key enabler for the next-generation network. ‘I believe that this spectrum will be granted to us in 2019 so commercial deployment can only begin after that,’ he said.

“real mass-deployment can only begin post-2020”

‘However, we will have standardised versions available, perhaps as early as 2018, perhaps in time for the Korean Winter Olympics. But in my opinion, real mass-deployment can only begin post-2020 .’

However, spectrum is not the only hurdle that the industry will have to jump before 5G deployment. Moiin admits that standardisation will be a lengthy process, especially with so many competing companies in the European industry.

“Will it be millimetre-Wave, will it be centimetre wave, will it be a combination of different radio access technologies?”

‘We also don’t have real good common ground as an industry on what spectrum we will use and what technologies we will use,’ he admitted. ‘Will it be millimetre-Wave, will it be centimetre wave, will it be a combination of different radio access technologies?

‘These are some of the issues which we’re grappling with at the moment. We hope that we can resolve them within the next couple of years, so the standards process can follow and eventually deployments can begin.’

“Europe was the leader in the 3G era … it is the natural place to take leadership once again”

Moiin also called upon the European Commission to support a cross-border ability to do mergers and acquisitions in order to allow larger groups to be formed and better business cases to be made by operators.

‘We can not forget that Europe was the leader in the 3G era,’ he claimed. ‘And it is the continent which after-all founded GSM, so it is the natural place to take leadership once again.’

Despite Moiin playing the European card, it’s notable that the 5G conference it has established and backed for the past two years takes place in Brooklyn, New York, which is not often regarded as being part of Europe.

Inside5G’s guess is that Nokia has to tread carefully and would not want to be seen to get too firmly behind one region’s quest for 5G leadership. Although Nokia is a European company it acts globally and relies on deals in Asia in particular –  last year notching a one billion Euro deal in China for example. There’s value for a company such as Nokia in playing regions off against each other, of course. It can benefit from local funding schemes and academic excellence and generate research value from different regions. Huawei is doing something very similar, in its European lab launches, and Ericsson too is backing and looking to benefit from different academic facilities.

However, getting behind European leadership would be good politics in terms of the company’s position in Germany and Finland, where it has laid off many staff in recent years. To that end it has leant Moiin’s blue suit of power to 5G-PPP’s efforts.

As for the call to allow more mergers between operators in Europe, that is absolutely in line with the main lobbying efforts of big telco in Europe at the moment.

Another interesting comment is on the mix of spectrum bands. Here Moiin most recently went public with a 3D simulation of Manhattan, where Nokia appeared to back mmWave for short range very low latency applications and also for backhaul for the majority of new sites in dense areas. Moiin said that using cmWave could achieve a 3x increase on capacities over a very souped-up LTe-A Het Net. So it’s reasonable to assume Nokia is lining up some technology in those 6-30GHz cmWave bands.

He identified five grey areas for 5G: the economics/business case, the system level debate, the requirement to collaborate globally, the allocation of spectrum and the need for operators to lead and clarify requirements.

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