Like Qualcomm, Nokia increasingly looks like a company which is hedging its bets on whether its traditional MNO customers will remain its only bread and butter in the 5G era. The more the mobile value chain shifts from connectivity to orchestration, services and applications, the more chance there is for other players, such as cloud providers or enterprise service specialists, to steal a place in that chain. Nokia has been explicit that some of its more recent launches – including its ‘petabit-class router’ and underlying processors – are targeted at webscale companies just as much as MNOs. And its cloud-based, virtualized packet core could clearly support network slicing – with Nokia providing the slice orchestration and intelligence, and the MNO, at best, providing the bitpipes underneath.
The WING (Worldwide IoT Network Grid) solution, announced a year ago, is another example of a platform which could enable Nokia to offer services directly to enterprises or MVNOs, or provide a white label solution for non-MNOs. It is an IoT managed service that includes a pre-integrated IoT core network, combined with multi-country and multi-RAT connectivity management, operations, billing, security and data analytics.
Nokia insisted when it unveiled WING that it was not looking to sideline the MNOs. One of the key selling points for the platform is that it federates connectivity from multiple networks in order to support multinational clients. Since a single operator can rarely do this itself – or not without a web of partnerships to negotiate – WING can be a valuable way for MNOs to boost their own enterprise and IoT business, argues Nokia. “There is no worldwide operator and so this is a federation in cooperation with operators that allows them to extend outside their geographic remit,” said Phil Twist, VP of portfolio marketing, at the launch.
And indeed, the first major publicly announced customer for WING is a conventional operator, Nordic group Tele2, whose Tele2 IoT subsidiary has signed a five-year contract with Nokia, to use WING to deliver services to its enterprise IoT customers.
Tele2 IoT will use WING to support enterprise customers in sectors including transport, healthcare, smart cities and utilities, to manage their global connectivity needs. It will also work with Nokia on projects to advance some key IoT technologies in future, including 5G, NB-IoT, LTE-M, eSIM management and next generation analytics.
Nokia’s head of WING, Ankur Bhan, said the deal would “enable Tele2 IoT to offer its enterprise customers a global service with flexible control, low latency and high levels of efficiency and enterprise automation”.
But there are shadows over this apparent symbiosis between Nokia and its MNOs in the IoT space. It is notable the WING supports non-cellular connectivity, such as LoRa or Sigfox, which would enable the managed services to be provided to alternative enterprise providers, such as cloud companies, or directly by Nokia.
Nokia describes WING as a “consultative” offering in which it works with the operator to identify the vertical market opportunities and support a go-to-market model that allows rapid scaling-up. But there is nothing in that proposition that is unique to an MNO.