& cplSiteName &

Nokia Sees Small Cells Make Big Impact – Outside Europe

Iain Morris

Finnish equipment vendor Nokia claims to have more than doubled the number of unit shipments at its small cells business last year thanks to surging interest in Asia and North America, but admits that demand for the technology remains weak in Europe.

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) would not disclose details of actual unit shipments or revenues from small cell sales during a press briefing at its London offices, but insisted that it was seeing a "hockey stick" growth curve at the business.

"We are not on the vertical part of the hockey stick but we are not on the horizontal part either," said Randy Cox, Nokia's head of product management for small cells. "Without being able to share figures, we see that -- in terms of number of units shipped -- we more than doubled last year."

It's About So Big
Randy Cox, the head of product management for Nokia's small cells business, shows off the vendor's kit during a press briefing in London.
Randy Cox, the head of product management for Nokia's small cells business, shows off the vendor's kit during a press briefing in London.

The Finnish vendor also revealed it has now signed small cell deals with a total of 220 customers worldwide.

As the name implies, small cells essentially provide coverage over smaller areas than so-called "macro" networks, using miniaturized equipment that costs less than standard basestations.

The publicity surrounding the technology was at fever pitch a few years ago, as proponents eyed opportunities to use small cells in "hotspots," such as concert venues and airports, where there was a need for a coverage and capacity boost.

A subsequent lull in activity provoked a degree of skepticism about the business case, but that is now changing, according to Nokia.

"Four years ago this was hype but now we are seeing it come to fruition," Cox told reporters, presenting details of small cell deployments in various parts of the world.

In particular, operators in North America and China, including Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), have been using small cells in a variety of scenarios as they "densify" their networks to meet the growing demand for mobile services.

"This is transitioning to everyday life," says Cox. "In China you have many cities with more than 1 million people and in specific areas demand is skyrocketing."

While China and North America are setting the pace, Nokia says it is also working with three operators in Japan and cites interest in the regions of Southeast Asia and Latin America.

It is due to start working on a deployment in Japan that will see "thousands" of units shipped this year, and says it has already shipped "tens of thousands" across the various countries in which it is active.

But Cox admits the appetite for small cells has been much weaker in Europe, and struggles to explain why. "It is perhaps partially because 3G is still more prominent than LTE but I'm hearing there is demand for 4G that is not being served today and I think there is a tendency for operators to feel that small cells are not the right answer or that it is too difficult," he says.

Some industry observers believe the emergence of 5G technology could spur small cell deployments, as much higher spectrum bands are brought into play (signals travel over much shorter distances in these frequencies), but Cox sounds dubious.

"If you are not doing small cells with 4G, I'm not sure why you would be thinking about doing it with 5G," he says. "You need to figure it out with 4G so that you can do it on 5G."

His colleague Stephane Daeuble, the head of small cells product marketing, is similarly frustrated by the situation in Europe.

"It is a missed opportunity," he says. "In China they are trying things out and have realized that if they put small cells in a certain environment there is an opportunity to ramp up volumes based on that."

During one deployment at Beijing airport, Nokia has been able to show that connectivity revenues increased as a result of the small cell installation, simply because of the "uplift" in network usage following rollout.

Even so, Cox is hopeful that a recent UK deal with Telefónica subsidiary O2 will kickstart deployments by other service providers.

Under that agreement, Nokia is deploying small cells in both outdoor and indoor scenarios. "That is promising and hopefully could be an example of where deployments will start to take off here as others see the benefits," says Cox.

The company is also looking at fresh opportunities in public sector and enterprise markets after announcing a new enterprise-focused strategy in November last year. (See Nokia: A Global Network Operator for the Enterprise?, Nokia to Create Standalone Software Biz, Target New Verticals and Nokia's New Software Unit to 'Redesign' Company.)

"There is public money available in all European countries to improve coverage," says Daeuble. "In France some councils are saying they will deploy small cells -- there are close to 20,000 villages they have to cover by 2019."

Technical edge
Nokia acquired part of its small cell business with its takeover of rival Alcatel-Lucent in early 2016 and has subsequently had to "rationalize" its portfolio of products to avoid any overlap. (See Nokia, AlcaLu Steady Ship on Costs Before Tie-Up.)

With small cell development sites in China, India, Poland and the US (in Chicago), the company claims to have the technology edge over its competitors in this area thanks to the way it has approached the small cells opportunity.

"We took a top-down instead of a bottom-up approach and are using a very powerful chipset -- the same used in outdoor products," says Cox. "None of our competitors is doing that and the benefit is that we can reuse macro software."

Cox says many rivals came from a femtocell background and that software designed for macro networks cannot be used on "low-end, femto-type chipsets."

The Flexi Zone micro product, one of Nokia's flagship small cell devices, is capable of supporting as many as 840 users in a small cell while competing technologies typically handle just 32 or 64 users, says Nokia.

There also appears to be little concern about interoperability: In a number of cases, Nokia's small cells have been used in conjunction with macro networks from both Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), says Cox.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Infinera's Sales Director Paints Tech's Big Picture

6|21|17   |   4:14   |   (1) comment

Shannon Williams, Infinera's director of sales, shares how she achieves work's many balancing acts -- between her role and the broader company, today and tomorrow's tech and more.
LRTV Custom TV
SD-WAN Innovation & Trends

6|20|17   |     |   (0) comments

Versa CEO Kelly Ahuja discusses with Carol Wilson the current status and trends in the SD-WAN market, Versa's innovation around building a software platform with broad contextualization, and the advantages that startups can bring to the SD-WAN market.
LRTV Interviews
Ovum's Dario Talmesio on 5G in Europe

6|20|17   |   02:16   |   (0) comments

At 5G World 2017, Dario Talmesio, principal analyst and practice leader on Ovum's fixed and mobile telecoms European team, explains the emerging trends amongst European operators as they prepare for 5G.
LRTV Custom TV
Putting Power on a Pedestal

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments

ARRIS's John Ulm says a major accomplishment of SCTE•ISBE's Energy 2020 program is increased focus on power cost and consumption, including inclusion of energy requirements in operators' RFPs and RFIs.
LRTV Custom TV
Gigabit Access: The Last-Mile Pipe for All Future Services

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments

A Gigabit access platform being deployed today must be able to deliver all types of services to an increasing number of devices. A non-blocking architecture is necessary to support the ever-increasing growth in bandwidth demand. The Huawei Gigabit access solution is based on a distributed design that is fully scalable to deliver a unprecedented performance.
LRTV Custom TV
Key Factors to Successfully Deploy an SD-WAN Service

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments

As service providers transition their SD-WAN solution from trials and limited deployments into production at large scale, there are important considerations to successfully operationalize these solutions and realize their full potential, without adding complexity, introducing uncertainty or disrupting current business operations. Sunil Khandekar, CEO and Founder ...
LRTV Custom TV
IoT Solutions: Rational Exuberance

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments

IoT solutions are morphing from hype into viable business opportunities. Huawei has the platform and ecosystem support to help carriers successfully address new business opportunities in the IoT space.
LRTV Custom TV
Realizing ICN as a Network Slice for Mobile Data Distribution

6|19|17   |     |   (1) comment

Network slicing in 5G allows the potential introduction of new network architectures such as Information-centric Networks (ICN) as a slice, managed over a shared pool of compute, storage and bandwidth resource. Services over an ICN slice can benefit from many architectural features such as Name Based Networking, Security, Multicasting, Multi-homing, Mobility, ...
LRTV Interviews
Ovum's Mike Roberts on 5G Uptake

6|19|17   |   04:08   |   (0) comments

Mike Roberts, research director for Ovum's service provider markets group, explains why he has boosted his 5G subscriptions forecast.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T's Hubbard on Intersection of SD-WAN & MPLS

6|15|17   |     |   (0) comments

Rick Hubbard, SVP of Network Product Management for AT&T Business Solutions, discusses how AT&T's approach to SD-WAN fits in with its overall virtualization strategy, explains how SD-WAN can improve enterprise customers' use of the cloud and addresses the intersection of SD-WAN and MPLS.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Keep Connected IoT Devices Under Control With Allot

6|15|17   |     |   (0) comments

Allot AVP of International Pre-Sales, Daniel Keidar, explains how communications service providers can protect infrastructure and service availability from flooding attacks caused by malfunctioning or bot-infected devices connected to their network.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE 5G World Highlights

6|15|17   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE showcases its leading 5G innovations at 5G World in London.
Upcoming Live Events
October 18, 2017, Colorado Convention Center - Denver, CO
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
All Upcoming Live Events
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Verizon Warns of $500M Hit From Yahoo Deal
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/16/2017
Netflix's Lesson in Culture Expectation Settings
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 6/21/2017
Kalanick Steps Down as Uber CEO
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 6/21/2017
No Imagination: UK Chip Biz Goes Up for Sale
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/22/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.