Nokia offers 5G software upgrade for 5m 4G radios

(Image credit: Nokia)

Nokia is issuing a software upgrade that will customers to repurpose 4G Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment for 5G.

The Finnish mobile giant says the upgrade will provide immediate support for one million radios immediately and 3.1 million by the end of the year. This figure could rise to in excess of five million by 2021.

Nokia is locked in a fiercely-contested battle with Ericsson and Huawei to provide radio kit for 5G rollouts around the world. To win customers, Nokia is pitching itself as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for telcos and enterprises thanks to a portfolio extends across the radio, transport and core layers of the network.

Nokia 5G radio

Central to that proposition is the ability for customers to reuse existing hardware and spectrum assets. For example, its AirScale platform offers dual connectivity, which allows operators to transmit data simultaneously across 5G and 4G networks, achieving higher transmission rates than using either technology independently.

The ability to roll out 5G remotely as a software upgrade will not only future proof infrastructure but will also greatly reduce engineering costs. Nokia claims the potential savings are worth more than ten billion.

“We already provide market- leading LTE radios to hundreds of customers around the world,” said Tommi Uitto, President of mobile networks at Nokia. “This is an important solution because it will help our customers, quickly and efficiently upgrade their existing LTE radios so that they are 5G ready saving them time and money.”

Nokia’s transition to 5G has not been without issues. It has struggled in the past few months due to the twin pressures of intense competition and the high cost of developing 5G technologies. Last month it was reported that a third of jobs at the Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary would be axed to reduce expenses.

However the company has since been boosted by major contract wins and news that its next generation AirScale cloud-based RAN technology will be generally available in 2021. There are also plans to integrate open interfaces into AirScale, allowing operators to benefit from OpenRAN innovations.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.