It’s changed days for Nokia as the former mobile phone giant used Mobile World Congress (MWC) to announce not a sexy new range of smartphones, but a trio of tidbits centering on 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and security.
Nokia had teased “something big” in the buildup to MWC and hinted that it would be related to mobile networks rather than nifty new consumer hardware. Now, we know what that “something” is: A $350 million investment fund — courtesy of Nokia Growth Ventures — to plow into new IoT projects, a new 5G-ready radio access product to replace its existing Flexi base station, and the acquisition of Canadian network security company Nakina Systems.
The seed of Nokia’s announcements at MWC today is in part attributable to the company’s recent $16.6 billion acquisition of France’s Alcatel-Lucent, a company specializing in telecoms and networking equipment technology. Indeed, Nokia had previously said that the acquisition would help it accelerate development of future technologies such as 5G and the Internet of Things.
“Progress with integrating Alcatel-Lucent is going smoothly and effectively, avoiding the organizational angst and infighting that have characterized earlier deals,” said Nokia president and CEO Rajeev Suri. “When you put Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent together, suddenly Nokia is in a dramatically different position with an addressable market that balloons to EUR141 billion. What we will be able to offer our customers – and their customers – is, simply, unparalleled.”
With 4G still making inroads in many markets, talk of 5G seems premature — and it was a theme that was on the agenda at last year’s MWC too. But Nokia said that it’s going all-in on the 5G future. “We are planning to dramatically increase our investment in 5G this year and unleash the power of our massive innovation engine,” added Suri. “We are already at the forefront of making 5G a reality and enabling massive capacity and massive connectivity – this is an integral part of our vision. 5G must happen fast because important IoT use cases demand it. If we know that 5G can help save lives, improve our environment, and make our lives better, we need to move faster, not slower.”
5G is still some four years away from being commercially available, but by making a 5G base station available now, this lets network operators test their offerings ahead of time.
The Nakina Systems acquisition, which is expected to close by spring this year, is designed to bolster Nokia’s 5G and IoT aspirations — security is the name of the game there.
Nokia’s announcements will likely be dwarfed by less future-gazing news from MWC. The annual event in Barcelona has barely begun, and we’ve already seen smartphones from LG, Alcatel, HP, and the mighty Samsung. While we weren’t exactly expecting new phones from Nokia, the Finnish firm is expected to lend its brand and design nous to mobile phones again in the future — and the event served as a reminder, if nothing else, of Nokia’s new position in the tech world.