Kicking off Nokia’s press briefing at the 2018 Mobile World Congress (MWC), chief marketing officer Barry French said there’s been a lot of talk about 5G during the past few years in Barcelona, which he likened to the Texas expression “All hat. No cattle.” This year, however, he said, we have cattle.
Rajeev Suri, Nokia’s CEO, developed that theme, saying 5G is happening faster than expected, with commercial launches in the U.S. and China by the end of 2018 and early 2019. He said China and the U.S. are in a race, followed by Japan and South Korea. The Nordic countries are next, with the rest of Europe lagging, not deploying 5G on a large scale until 2020 or 2021.
Suri said the U.S. is hampered by a lack of mid-band spectrum for 5G and admonished regulators to be more aggressive in allocating spectrum, saying each operator should have at least 100 MHz between 3 and 4 GHz.
Asked why Europe is lagging in deploying 5G, when a goal of the European Commission (EC) was to be first, Suri responded that Europe has too many operators in each country (two to four), with the average revenue per user (ARPU) just one-third of that in the U.S. With fewer subscribers and lower ARPU, operators don’t have the profitability to invest, particularly when they have unused 4G capacity. He said Europe needs reduced regulation, fewer operators and data plans that better monetize usage.
Suri said that 5G is a complete redesign of the network architecture, “a massive step beyond where we are today.” He argued that Nokia is the only company offering an end-to-end solution for 5G, from the radio through the networking technology needed for slicing. He said Nokia’s analysis shows an end-to-end solution will reduce an operator’s total cost of ownership by 30 to 40 percent, accelerate time to market by 8 to 16 months and yield 5 to 10 percent better reliabilty from the network.
Turning to other topics, Suri announced that Nokia is acquiring Unium, a U.S. software company focused on wireless networking for mission-critical and residential Wi-Fi. Using the Unium software, he unveiled a line of Nokia residential devices and gateways with “intelligent” mesh networked Wi-Fi.
He also said Nokia is joining the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and teaming with Facebook to push the adoption of 60 GHz fixed wireless access services, combining Nokia’s wireless passive optical network (WPON) technology with Facebook’s Terragraph system.
Wrapping up the presentation, Suri made five predictions for 2018:
People will become more concerned about the social implications of mobile technology — not just security and privacy. He said 5G and the IoT will yield major productivity gains for business, leading to job losses and further income disparity across society, which will foster discussions about such ideas as providing a universal basic income. Another concern is the impact of mobile technology on human connection, as in-person contact is reduced by screen time.
New form factors for mobile technology may reduce the dominance of smart phones. He cited research Nokia is doing on wearable devices.
After falling out of favor because of cumbersome interfaces and poor latency, virtual reality (VR) will “creep back,” gradually re-emerging with widespread adoption.
Network traffic between the data centers of the webscale companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google will dwarf mobile data; Nokia estimates data center volume will be five times mobile data.
Expect a major disruption in health care driven by the sheer frustration with the quality and cost of health care. Suri cited the recent announcement that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan are teaming to improve the health care of their employees as confirming his prediction. Technology will allow the silos of patient data to be tied together, leading to better analytics to identify trends, diagnose conditions and supervise care.