Nokia Delays Sprint's 5G Rollout

Mike Dano
8/13/2019
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The markets where Nokia is supplying 5G gear for Sprint -- Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. -- have not yet launched commercial service; Sprint missed its goal to launch all nine of its first 5G markets in the first half of 2019.

However, it appears that at least one of Nokia's 5G markets for Sprint -- New York City -- is nearly ready. PCMag reported that Sprint's 5G signal is available to customers with compatible devices in the city, providing speeds of up to 300 Mbit/s.

"All of our sites have been built for quite some time and commercial launch timing is dictated by the availability of final software from our RAN vendors," a Sprint spokesperson told Light Reading when asked about the delay. "We're working with Nokia in optimizing the performance of 5G in the next markets and will be launching very soon. We're focused on trying to provide the best experience for our customers ahead of launch."

"We are working closely with Sprint to support the launch of their 5G markets as planned," a Nokia spokesperson told Light Reading. "We will soon launch a network that has been fully tested to provide the right 5G experience for their customers."

This isn't the first time Nokia has hinted at troubles in 5G. Its shipments of 5G equipment in South Korea were three months behind schedule, according to a local report. And in the UK, Nokia equipment is being phased out of the RAN by Vodafone, which prefers Ericsson and Huawei. Nokia also missed out on a 5G RAN deal with Three, which favored Huawei despite having used Nokia as a 3G vendor.

Speaking to analysts during Nokia's earnings call in late April, CEO Rajeev Suri acknowledged there were "short-term issues" regarding "radio roadmaps." Nokia found software defects and "instability" in consumer device chipsets when testing its 5G basestation software, he said.

Those issues may well have impacted Nokia's finances considering rivals Ericsson and Huawei reported gains in the first quarter of this year while Nokia seemed to stumble. However, Nokia's second-quarter performance appeared much more solid.

Sprint promised last year to launch 5G in nine markets by July 2019. The operator selected three vendors for the effort: Ericsson, Samsung and Nokia. Ericsson built Sprint's 5G networks in Dallas, Atlanta, Houston and Kansas City; those markets launched at the end of May. Samsung's market, Chicago, launched in July.

On the same day that Samsung's Chicago market launched, Nokia blogged about the performance of its networks in the US, as reflected in network testing by RootMetrics. "Nokia-supplied networks achieved the highest RootScores across the 125 markets and in all six categories: network reliability, network speed, data performance, call performance, text performance and overall performance," the company wrote of the performance of US networks using its equipment in the first half of 2019.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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Mike Dano
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Mike Dano,
User Rank: Blogger
8/14/2019 | 10:17:27 AM
Update
At Sprint's request I changed the second half of their spokesperson's quote. Previously they said they would begin the process of optimizing performance in their next markets before launch as they want the experience to be right for customers.
James_B_Crawshaw
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James_B_Crawshaw,
User Rank: Blogger
8/14/2019 | 1:43:49 PM
Re: Charlie called it a year ago
That's interesting if true Maurelius. It would be another embarassment for Chipzilla after its 5G modem fiasco. But I don't think it will crush Nokia as SemiAccurate's headline suggests.