President, Mobile Networks, Nokia

INTERVIEW: Nokia’s decision to embrace the open RAN market appears to be paying off, with the company having scored at least one commercial win in the market to date.

Speaking to Mobile World Live, president of mobile networks Tommi Uitto (pictured) stated: “We already have a contract for fully open RAN compliant product, which we are developing, so it’s a good start. And as the specifications and this standard matures then of course over the next couple of years we will see more and more of this. So, it takes a couple of years to get to where we want to be in open RAN.”

Earlier this month Nokia set out a timescale for the addition of open RAN compatibility to its existing products, with the company aiming to steal a march on rivals by offering a full suite of interfaces for the technology in 2021.

The vendor plans to launch a range of open RAN interfaces and capabilities for its current AirScale software by the end of this year, before expanding to cover the full range of open interfaces.

At the time of the announcement the vendor claimed to be the only global RAN provider to commit to the new, open technology, pointing to R&D investments and ambitions of “leading the open mobile future.”

Nokia’s Uitto believes open RAN offers both a threat and opportunity to traditional vendors, and tipped the approach to help accelerate innovation in radio technology.

The Finnish vendor’s mobile network boss said although there were still challenges associated with open RAN, especially in terms of specifications and interoperability, he expected things to progress in the next “couple of years” to allow the industry to “get to the dream of open RAN”.

Despite the new ecosystem opening Nokia and its peers to new competition, the executive noted: “one can also take it as an opportunity.

Because different companies can innovate with their capabilities and their particular technology assets, together the entire ecosystem can innovate and move faster.”

He added Nokia believed in open competition and the time had come for evolution in the radio network industry.

“It was the very premise of the original GSM technology that there would be open interfaces between different network functions in order to drive scale, interoperability, choice, global technology and global roaming,” Uitto said. “We believe that the time has come to try and make it happen in radio technology.”

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