With Alcatel-Lucent in Hand, Nokia Targets 5G, IoT

The company, seeing an opportunity given its larger size and reach, unveils an array of partnerships and products at Mobile World Congress.

Nokia 5G

A bulked-up Nokia is looking to use its new-found size and strength to become a significant player in the 5G and Internet of things (IoT) markets.

The company is coming off the completion of its $16.6 billion acquisition of rival Alcatel-Lucent, a deal Nokia officials said would enable it to better compete with the likes of Ericsson, Huawei Technologies and Cisco Systems, and one that essentially doubled the size of Nokia's opportunities in next-generation networking and the Internet of things.

At the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016 in Barcelona, Spain, this week, Nokia officials unveiled a range of moves the company has made in the area of 5G and IoT, including demonstrations, collaborations and products. They are part of a larger strategy to rapidly grow Nokia's presence in the emerging spaces.

"We are planning to dramatically increase our investment in 5G this year and unleash the power of our massive innovation engine," Nokia President and CEO Rajeev Suri told a media and analyst briefing, according to the company. "We are already at the forefront of making 5G a reality and enabling massive capacity and massive connectivity. This is an integral part of our vision."

Nokia is far from the only tech vendor at MWC making a push into 5G and the IoT. Cisco, Intel, Ericsson and others also want to play a significant role in the development of both. 5G promises to bring as much as 100 times the throughput of current 4G networks, and will be an important technology as the number of connected devices, systems and sensors that make up the fast-growing IoT continue to generate massive amounts of data that need to be processed.

Standards around 5G aren't expected to be set until as late as 2020, but officials with Nokia, Intel and other vendors and service providers are saying that there is a need now to begin laying the groundwork for the technology. However, Nokia's Suri said the move to 5G could come earlier than many are predicting.

"5G will happen faster than expected," Suri told an audience at MWC, according to Reuters. "This may surprise some of you."

At the show, Nokia officials announced a range of demonstrations and trials around 5G networking. The company said it is working with carrier T-Mobile to develop a pre-standards 5G test network that will be ready for field and lab trials in the second half of the year. The testing will be done in pre-selected spectrum in the 28GHz band, enabling T-Mobile to run trials on 5G components and use cases to handle high bandwidth capacity and virtual zero latency, officials said.

Nokia officials also said the company collaborated last month with Verizon on another 5G field trial conducted outdoors and in a residential environment on Verizon's Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex network in Texas.

"The data collected during the field trials and use cases is the next step for driving the 5G tests from the lab environment into a solution that will allow Verizon to transition from field trials to commercial deployments," Samih Elhage, president of mobile networks at Nokia, said in a statement.

Nokia also is working with China Mobile to demonstrate 5G-enabled robots, showing how next-generation networks can be used to advance industry automation and increase manufacturing productivity.

Those collaborations followed Nokia's announcement Feb. 17 that it is partnering with Vodafone Group and others to research 5G technologies, including evaluating products, testing hardware and software, and conducting trials.

In addition, Nokia unveiled a 5G-ready AirScale radio access product that replaces the company's Flexi base station.

On the IoT, Nokia is working with Vodafone and Intel to demonstrate Narrow Band IoT (NB-IOT) radio access technology, which is being recommended as a standard for connecting meters, sensors, tracking devices and other products found in buildings and in rural areas. Nokia officials also noted that the company was joining Facebook, Intel, Deutsche Telekom and others as a founding member of the Telecom Infra Project, which is aiming to apply the open-development methods found at the Facebook-led Open Compute Project to telecommunications infrastructures.

Nokia also announced Feb. 22 that it is buying Nakina Systems, a security technology vendor whose products help businesses deal with threats from such trends as the IoT, software-defined networking (SDN) and cloud services.