Nokia has just announced the availability of a software-based upgrade that it says will enable millions of Nokia 4G basestations to be easily migrated to 5G New Radio (NR), claiming telcos could potentially save "tens of billions of euros" by reducing the need for site engineering and visits.
The Finnish vendor said it can migrate 1 million radios right now, with 3.1 million planned by the end of the year and more than 5 million by 2021. Nokia explained that the next wave of 5G NR rollouts will be based on refarming existing FDD spectrum bands from 4G to 5G, and noted that the ability to upgrade 4G radios via a software update "will significantly smooth out the deployment of 5G/NR FDD."
Nokia said most 5G NR deployments to date have been performed with TDD centimeter wave (cmWave, or 6GHz to 30GHz bands) and TDD millimeter wave (mmWave, above 30GHz) deployments.
The vendor also pointed to its recent introduction of dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) for 4G-5G NR, which enables both technologies to use the same spectrum band.
Nokia is clearly aiming to keep a firm grip on its existing LTE customers, although operators tend to stick with the same radio access network vendor (RAN) at least for non-standalone 5G NR due to interoperability issues. At the same time, offering a quick upgrade route that supports spectrum refarming and saves costs will have an appeal.
It's worth noting here that the soon-to-depart CEO of Nokia, Rajeev Suri, previously played down the "software upgradability" of RAN equipment, which has been long touted by Ericsson. Last year, Suri told analysts during a Nokia earnings call that "software-only upgrades are meaningless, unless your hardware has the right capacity."
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading