Elisa beats US, Asia to 5G Finnish line

Finland's Elisa fends off tough competition from US and Asian operators to launch the world's first 'commercial' 5G service. And it really is commercial. Honest.

Iain Morris, International Editor

June 28, 2018

3 Min Read
Elisa beats US, Asia to 5G Finnish line

Having missed out on World Cup soccer, the Finns are satisfying their urge to compete on the 5G front instead. This week they claim to have launched the world's very first "commercial" 5G service, tearing past US and Asian frontrunners with a burst of speed that no one expected. (See Eurobites: Sunrise Welcomes 5G Dawn.)

That's right. While the likes of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) have been gabbling about a 5G service launch in late 2018, at the very earliest, Finnish mobile operator Elisa Corp. has snuck one past them, as a soccer pundit might say. European 5G lag? What European 5G lag?

Elisa, which operates the biggest mobile network in Finland, was desperately keen to emphasize this is a "commercial" launch, and not just your usual run-of-the-mill laboratory test or field trial. So keen, in fact, that it uses the word "commercial" no fewer than six times in its press release to hammer home the point.

But it's a pretty exclusive commercial service, it seems, with a grand total of two subscribers. One is Anne Berber, Finland's minister of transport and communications, while the other is Kadri Simon, the minister of economic affairs and infrastructure. They've been busy chatting to each other on a video call while Elisa waits for other customers to arrive on the network.

Indeed, the operator claims to have already started selling 5G subscriptions. Party poopers who just aren't into the whole spirit of 5G will undoubtedly try to spoil the fun by inquiring how, rudely noting that 5G chipsets haven't yet arrived and that Finland hasn't even auctioned 5G spectrum licenses.

To the naysayers, this will also be worth filing away as an outstanding example of what happens when Finnish marketers -- frustrated by their footballers' failure to qualify for the World Cup -- load up on caffeine, lock those pedantic technical types out of the marketing office and get creative.

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on
Light Reading.

Whatever Elisa has actually introduced, the industry can probably look forward to many more faux 5G launches in the next few months. In fact, US 5G evangelist AT&T started the ball rolling months ago: "5G Evolution," as it branded one service (to much derision), turned out to mean 4G evolution. (See AT&T Rolls Out Faux 5G in 100+ US Markets.)

Over on this side of the pond, there is even now some concern among senior technology executives that smartphones will start to flash up the "5G" signal when operators are not really delivering a 5G service. (See Petty's Grievances: The 5G Hopes & Fears of Vodafone UK's CTO.)

Elisa, in fairness, has been ahead of the game on 4G and has thrived in the Finnish market despite tough competition from Telia, one of Europe's biggest operator groups. Its investments in automation, and efforts to sell its automation tools and expertise to other telcos, definitely merit attention. (See The Trendiest Telcos Don't Wear SOCs, The Zero-Person Network Operations Center Is Here (in Finland) and Finland's Elisa is selling its automation smarts to other telcos.)

So those boring naysayers and pedants can just back off. Who really cares about minor details like device availability and spectrum permits when there are superfast mobile connections to sell? Let's get Europe's 5G party started.

— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like