By Diana Goovaerts

Nokia sees opportunity in interoperability

Interoperability requirements for 5G could give Nokia a chance to gain share in the US equipment market, despite disruption from Samsung, company executives told Mobile World Daily.

Mike Murphy (pictured, right), Nokia North America CTO, explained interoperability adds complexity to the network, which is why operators typically opt to use a single vendor in a given region.

“There’s a technical benefit to sticking with the same vendor. If you have a 4G base station from Nokia, putting a 5G [node] from Ericsson beside it – yes, the theory’s all behind it. But in practice, there are a lot fewer issues if you stay with the same vendor.”

But he noted it also allows operators to mix and match equipment, meaning Nokia can potentially make inroads into rival territory.

“So the rough rule of thumb is the guy who has the 4G footprint gets the 5G footprint. We would like to get more footprint, but it comes with its challenges.”

Rick Corker (pictured, right), head of Nokia North America, added the company’s strong 4G footprint in the US will give it a head start as operators continue to make decisions about their 5G infrastructure, pointing to recent 5G deals with T-Mobile US, Sprint and AT&T. He said the company takes its competition, including Samsung, “very seriously”, but noted it’s not surprising to see operators considering a new vendor as network technology moves to the next generation.

Murphy said 5G is also bringing other changes to the marketplace, eliciting much broader interest than 4G among cable and satellite operators, over-the-top players, and technology companies including Google and Facebook. And rather than operators inventing use cases to push out to customers, verticals are increasingly putting in requests.

“One of the top four [US operators] is pushing us for a new use case demo basically every month for the next six months,” Murphy revealed. He added Facebook and Google are looking at both internal and external uses for 5G, while cable operators are eyeing the technology for fixed wireless access and mobile deployments.

To the latter point, Murphy predicted 5G could finally provide the right conditions for long-discussed convergence between the cable and wireless industries to occur. He noted both industries are moving to higher speeds, pushing compute power to the edge and shifting to virtualised systems.

“I have an active case this minute with a top four operator and they want a proposal from us on converging fixed and wireless,” he said. “So, there’s both the interest and the technical capability. That’s why this time I think it’ll actually happen.”