Nokia ticks wireline and wireless boxes in readiness for convergence

“There is more and more convergence between mobile and fixed networks. There are going to be 5G small cells on every street corner using existing broadband infrastructure,” said Geert Heyninck, general manager of Nokia’s broadband access business unit, at Mobile World Congress.

Those trends have brought the Broadband Forum into close contact with the mobile standards bodies, and recently it submitted proposals for 5G fixed/mobile convergence to the 3GPP.

Among Nokia’s announcements was a major deployment at Japan’s KDDI, upgrading connectivity in multi-dwelling units (MDUs) to speeds of 830Mbps using interoperable and VDSL technologies.

KDDI isn’t Nokia’s first customer in Japan – it has already worked with utility company EneCom to provide service providers with a smooth migration from Japan-specific VDSL platforms to and eventually Nokia projects will eventually supersede VDSL architectures.

But while the battle for broadband was once a fiber versus copper debate, increasingly the conflict is becoming one of fiber and copper architectures teaming up against wireless technologies.

Nokia, of course, has feet in both camps, and showed off a new 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) device at the show. Admitting the FastMile 5G Gateway is a little chunky, Stefaan Vanhastel, head of marketing for fixed networks, said slimmer versions were in the works, though that hasn’t stopped Australia’s Optus placing a trial order.

The product claims to deliver between 10 and 25 times more bandwidth than LTE, using sub-6 GHz spectrum with mesh WiFi, a relatively new area for the vendor, which said it has developed its own mesh architecture. It won its first in-home mesh network deployment with fiber operator AIS Thailand in November, supplying its Nokia WiFi Beacon 3. Vanhastel said Nokia plans to upgrade to WiFi 6 silicon in Q3, and also claimed a couple of European mesh WiFi deployments are already in the pipeline.

The case for 5G FWA in Australia is as good as anywhere, with the state-mandated National Broadband Network (NBN) project struggling to achieve the objectives of scale and reach originally set out  for it (Nokia is also a key supplier of technologies, which have been introduced to ease the pressure to deploy fiber absolutely everywhere, to NBN).

Nokia may have exited the IP video business last year by spinning off its Velocix business, but the vendor continues to highlight future video use cases in its press releases for networking products. This year’s big buzzword bet was on 5G Cloud VR gaming, based on an open RAN architecture, using AI and machine learning to manage extreme network demands.

In partnership with China Mobile, Nokia was using its edge cloud to host real time computing capabilities, using an open API (application programming interface), based on the ORAN Interface Controller A1 architecture, to manage and update the machine learning-trained models. Nokia says its recently launched Open Edge Server is tailored for rendering VR video in the cloud and ensure a jitter-free experience.

Nokia’s Head of Cloud-RAN, Michael Clever, said: “VR gaming on a mobile network combines all the ingredients that make 5G so promising. We are proud to be working closely with CMCC (China Mobile Communications) to extend the capabilities of the ORAN architecture, which is enabling us to combine the powerful capabilities of our Open Edge Server with the 5G radio network.”