BARCELONA, Spain —Nokia said that 5G is happening faster than expected, and the company is racing to line up 5G operator deals. During a media event here on the eve of Mobile World Congress 2018, CEO Rajeev Suri said that just hours before he signed a 5G deal with China Mobile, and he hinted about an upcoming 5G announcement with a U.S. operator that will happen later this week.
China Mobile plans to use the company’s 5G Future X network architecture to offer services to vertical markets. Specifically, the two firms will use techniques like network slicing, multi-access edge computing (MEC), and narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) to connect vehicles and use intelligent video analytics in smart city applications.
Interestingly, the deal also includes working with China Mobile to see how it can benefit from the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) architecture to manage and orchestrate its network as well as incorporate automation. China Mobile is a platinum member of ONAP as are AT&T, Orange, and Verizon.
During the media event today, Suri said that 5G interest in accelerating quickly, noting that just eight months ago some operators were shrugging off 5G but now “the race is on.” He also said that Nokia believes the two countries leading in the 5G race are the United States and China and that Europe will not be leading the pack. His statement is surprising, particularly given the fact that the European Commission launched the 5G-Transformer project with the goal of making Europe a leader in 5G standards and innovation.
Suri said that in Europe there are too many operators, and he thinks there needs to be consolidation among those operators. He also said that European consumers don’t spend as much on their monthly service plans and because of this, operators are not as likely to spend money on upgrading their networks.
Nokia also announced that it has purchased a mesh wireless networking company called Unium and will incorporate the company’s software into its in-home WiFi solutions. Suri said that Unium’s technology will make it easier for households to deploy a WiFi network. The company’s software can build a mesh network and is capable of band steering. It also can optimize device connectivity and enables gigabit-plus capacity throughout the home.
Nokia didn’t reveal how much it paid for Unium, but the transaction is expected to close this quarter. The Seattle-based company was founded in 2002 and has more than 47 million home gateways installed worldwide.
Suri ended the media event with some predictions for the future. First, he believes social issues related to technology will become more pervasive. In particular, he said he believes that as technology makes many jobs more automated there will be productivity gains but this will also lead to risks of income disparity and a growing backlash about it. He also said that he expects there to be continued worries about smartphones and the impact they have on real interaction.
Secondly, he said that he believes new form factors will emerge that will question the dominance of smartphones.
Third, he believes virtual reality will re-emerge and become more pervasive.
Fourth, he also said that as more traffic is offloaded to the backbone of the Internet there will be more emphasis on the web-scale companies like Google and Alibaba and their networks. He also expects that new players will need to invest in their networks to keep up with the growing traffic.
And finally, Suri said that he believes that the healthcare industry will finally see a massive disruption, much of which will be driven by technology. He added that through data, patient diagnosis will improve and care will become less expensive and better.
Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri makes some announcements during a media event in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress 2018.