In Oulu 5G is our future: NSN sets its goals high

When Microsoft and Nokia announced the sale of Nokia’s devices and services unit in September 2013, Nokia’s network CEO Rajeev Suri published a comment on the company’s website. “Business as usual for NSN”, he wrote. Sure, Nokia as a brand is known to the consumer for its phones. But it’s sometimes worthwhile pausing for a minute to look at the bigger picture, and Juhani Helakari from Nokia Solutions and Networks knows that. “Nokia’s network business has been part of Nokia for decades, and it’s always been separate from the device side. We’ve been developing networks here on the same site since 1973, long before Nokia even built mobile phones. ”

Answering the call for capacity

That history has provided the first WCDMA connection in the world from Oulu, and the developments in the site have been at the forefront of all radio technology developments throughout mobile history. The future provides capacity challenges, for which NSN is eager to provide answers. One answer is 5G, which is still in its early, mostly undefined stages. Still, 5G is so desirable that even the EU is providing €50 million for research to deliver 5G mobile technology by 2020 and setting the industry lead firmly in Europe.

“5G is going to mean a lot. It is the most interesting technology currently in development at the moment because it’s the newest, but there’s work to be done on older systems as well. We’ve recruited people to work on GSM as well, and that’s been around for a good while.” Helakari says.

The change is going to be vast. “NSN has created a technology vision where our goals are set. The main thing is that we are going to enable mobile broadband networks to deliver 1 gigabyte of personalized data per user per day by 2020, whereas the average use now is around 15 megabytes.” A gigabyte is enough for HD television, or around 300 songs.

It’s time to set the course

Helakari also sees obstacles on the way to next generation technologies. “There’s a lot of talent and ability to be in the leading role in the development of for example 5G radio, but the city and even the government need to do their part as well. There’s about 15,000 people working in the industry right now in the Oulu area. If we, as a region, don’t strive to be in the lead, what will happen to those jobs? We have to want the leading development to happen here. The region has had long-term vision, but at the moment it seems to have shortened.”

Another thing he calls for is better communication and coordination: with so many start-ups in the region, information doesn’t necessarily flow the way it should. “I bet nobody can see the big picture right now, because everyone is focusing on their own thing. Things are going in several directions, not one single one. But even with the companies changing, the people who create the technology are still here.”