Nokia unveils WING IoT service for XL biz, says it won’t upset MNOs

Nokia is continuing its IoT-focused diversification, announcing the new Worldwide IoT Network Grid (WING) offering, as it prepares to convince the industry of its success at MWC in Barcelona. WING, a managed service, aims to provide IoT connectivity to a wide range of verticals on a global basis – acting as a one-stop shop for enterprises looking to connect devices to applications.

The main thrust of the sales pitch is simplicity, with Nokia declaring that the process of deploying global IoT applications is currently hampered by the patchwork business agreements and management expertise. WING claims to simplify this deployment process, “by spanning technologies and borders, with subscription and device management, security and analytics all included.”

Citing connected cars and freight containers as global devices that WING could ideally serve, Nokia is hoping to become the central presence in enterprise deployments – the middleman between the customer and a vast ecosystem of other businesses peddling their wares.

Nokia wants to sit at the top of the stack, but is wary about treading on the toes of its own MNO customers, which also offer managed services in this vein. Nokia says it plans to target only the largest enterprises with WING, and claims that this will mean there won’t be much in the way of overlap with the MNO’s customers. Nokia is also planning on offering a white-label of WING for those operators to use too.

In the past year, Nokia has branched out into health-focused wearables, with its acquisition of Withings, back in April for $191m. In November, it announced a partnership with HPE to target smart city and industrial customers with a joint offering of network connectivity (Nokia) and compute power (HPE), and Nokia is continuing to ply its core business of cellular network infrastructure with the new Release 13 cellular specs – LTE Cat-M1 and NB-IoT.

But the drive into new markets comes as it faces increased pressure from Huawei – the upstart Chinese company that has savaged Ericsson and Nokia in markets that they had previously had sewn up between them. In the past few years, this led Nokia to offload its devices portfolio to Microsoft, as well as sell its Here mapping platform to a consortium comprised of Audi, BMW, and Daimler.

Of course, Nokia’s name has recently returned to handsets, after a license with Microsoft expired, but Nokia shows no real desire to get back to its heyday of handset dominance – instead happy to roll out a few flagship devices, and let HMD Global exclusively license its IP to manufacture Nokia-branded phones.

Two weeks ago, Nokia added NB-IoT and LoRa to its Intelligence Management Platform for all Connected Things (IMPACT) offering, as well as unveiling a gateway for smart grid developers looking to connect energy infrastructure to the internet via private LTE networks.

So while handsets have returned to the line-up, it looks like Nokia is increasingly focused on IoT opportunities to drive growth outside its traditional networking offerings – in smart city, smart grid, transport, logistics, and healthcare markets. The Nokia diversification is comparable to the moves that Intel has been making, using the IoT as a means to shore up the books as core markets are disrupted.

The WING offering comprises Nokia’s IMPACT platform, its eSIM subscription management offering, and its M2M Core service. While IMPACT will be linking all manner of communication layers, from satellite and unlicensed LPWAN through to LTE and WiFi, the WING service will take care of the security, billing, and management tasks.

Nokia’s Head of Global Services, Igor Leprince, said “Nokia WING will provide one global IoT grid. We cannot do this alone, and we are reaching out to communication service providers (CSPs) across the globe to collaborate with us so that we can extend the benefits of the connected world to more industries.”

The WING announcement isn’t the only one being made ahead of MWC. Nokia revealed that it will be offering a “4.9G” massive MIMO Adaptive Antenna, which it says can increase cell density by up to 5x – and will be demonstrating the system at MWC with Sprint, using 3D Beamforming software to provide throughput increases of up to 8x in the uplink and 5x in the downlink.

Also announced was the new 4.5G Pro AirScale Micro Remote Radio Head (RRH), which aims to let MNOs use unlicensed spectrum to provide gigabit LTE speeds to their customers, using Licensed Assisted Access (LAA).. Another MWC demo will see Nokia show off what it says will be a world-first – the Cloud Single RAN, running virtualized 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G radios, via its commercial AirScale and AirFrame platforms.

These network upgrades show that Nokia isn’t jumping ship. The move towards the next-gen 5G technologies will be lucrative for the likes of Nokia, as the broader trend of cell-densification will require more physical infrastructure and fancier network coordination software.