Nokia execs suggest carriers need to pick 5G vendors soon, explain Huawei interoperability

Nokia Canada’s senior executives suggest telecom carriers should finalize their 5G vendors by the latter part of the third quarter or in the fourth quarter of this year to be competitively ready when the spectrum is available.

During a roundtable discussion with reporters at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Toronto, Ric Herald, Nokia Canada’s president, said if the 3.5GHz spectrum auction is scheduled to happen next year and is ready by the end of next year then carriers “would have to start deciding in the late third, fourth quarter this year.”

So it would take about six months to prepare, Herald said.

“You’ve got to get the equipment then ship it, then you’ve got to install it, you have to test it and configure it, so I would say yes [it would take six months],” he said.

“And depending on the size, are they going to start out with a small deployment that takes less time? Are they going to carve out the market? It really depends on what their strategy is. Is it urban, rural? Right now they’re not discussing these things, they’re just trying to figure out who [they] want to use.”

Currently, Rogers is the only carrier that has made a decision, choosing Ericsson to be its 5G vendor. Bell and Telus have not decided who its 5G vendor will be, despite working with Huawei for deploying 3G and 4G LTE networks.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is conducting a review of 5G and the future of the network in Canada. Part of that review will include whether or not Huawei will be banned in the country.

Reports suggest that a decision could happen after the election, but nothing has been confirmed.

Nokia says it can help with interoperability problem, but it’s up to customers

Huawei’s equipment is not interoperable, meaning another vendor’s equipment won’t be able to function if it is used on Huawei’s existing infrastructure. In Telus’ case, where 100 percent of its infrastructure is Huawei, this could cost millions to rip up and reconstruct in the case of a Huawei ban.

Telus told MobileSyrup that Huawei’s equipment is not interoperable because Huawei customizes its parts for its clients, which will result in deploying spectrum more effectively to deliver a better network.

But Herald and Nokia’s North American chief technology officer Mike Murphy said that this is just a technicality and it is possible to make the equipment interoperable.

When asked if Nokia would help Telus should Huawei get banned, Herald said: “Any customer that approaches us, we will have a solution for.”

But ultimately it is the customer’s decision, he said.

Murphy explained that there are many cases in the world where a provider decided to pick a different 5G vendor, “so you essentially mix and match, you can do that technically.”

“It’s more of a business question, whether [Huawei] will play ball to do it,” Murphy said, adding that it is also based on the “customer encouraging it and requesting it.”

Herald did note that Nokia is constantly in touch with Telus but did not go into detail of what conversations are about.

Nokia’s success isn’t just being the sole 5G vendor

Herald said that success to Nokia Canada is “being in all of our customers with some percentage of their business across all of our product lines.”

He added that he wouldn’t just look at radio network equipment as the only way to find success.

“For me, success would be to grow, right now we are in all the accounts, so my measure of success is to grow more,” he said, adding on the 5G front, Nokia Canada would definitely want to be a part of every customer’s 5G network.

Herald said that whether or not Nokia is selected as a 5G vendor depends on how well it sells its products’ capabilities.

But for the carriers it will be a transition from LTE to 5G, he said.

“They will still be tied to LTE, but they will have to make some transitions in their network to build 5G and that offers an opportunity for us,” he said. “So my view is because I’m not there today doesn’t mean I won’t be there tomorrow.”