Nokia signals its technology virtue

Finnish kit vendor Nokia has been getting involved with liquid cooling 5G base stations and dynamically refarming loads of spectrum.

Ericsson might be having a good run of 5G deal wins, but can it liquid cool its base stations? Well, Nokia can. The proof of the pudding is in its deployment by Finnish MNO Elisa, for which the new tech is helping reduce the potential energy expenses of its base stations by 30 percent and CO2 emissions by approximately 80 percent. This is apparently the first commercial deployment of this sort of thing.

Base stations produce a fair bit of heat, most of which is dissipated into the air around them. By using liquid cooling, that heat can be repurposed, although it’s not immediately obvious what for. Liquid-cooled sites are silent, we’re told, they require zero maintenance, and can be 50 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter than standard active air conditioning units.

“Nokia was first to introduce a liquid-cooled base station with the 2G, 3G and 4G base stations with Elisa in Finland,” said Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia. “Now we have demonstrated the world’s first liquid-cooled AirScale 5G base station in commercial operations, making liquid cooling a reality for all network generations. This innovative solution supports operators in their quest to be more environmentally responsible while allowing them to achieve significant cost savings.”

“Elisa has set a clear target to be carbon neutral at the end of 2020,” said Sami Komulainen, EVP of Production at Elisa. “We also want to maintain our 5G leadership and continue to be amongst the top operators in the world to offer the wide benefits of this new technology to our customers. Innovations such as Nokia’s liquid cooling 5G base station demonstrate how 5G can help drive sustainability.”

Save a few euros and get to do some eco virtue-signalling at the same time, seems like a double win to us. Meanwhile Nokia has helped Vodafone Idea to complete what they claim is the world’s largest Dynamic Spectrum Refarming deployment. As the name implies, DSR technology enables MNOs to allocate spectrum to different radio technologies on the fly, which should make the transition from one generation to another more smooth. The two also collaborated over some massive MIMO gear.

“At a time when connectivity is so crucial, the deployment of DSR and mMIMO will help Vodafone Idea enhance network capacity and improve the experience for their customers,” said Sanjay Malik, Head of India at Nokia. “We are committed to helping mobile operators around the world strengthen and optimize the efficiency of their networks through innovative solutions so that they can fully utilize all available resources.”

“Dynamic spectrum refarming provides us with more network capacity and data speed to enable us to deliver best-in-class network experience to our subscribers,” said Vishant Vora CTO at Vodafone Idea. “Vodafone Idea was the first one to trial the DSR and I thank Nokia for the close partnership. Similarly, we have the largest deployment of mMIMOs in India and our investment in mMIMO technology significantly helped us in meeting the growing data demand during the COVID-19 crisis.”

So, Ericsson got to show off yesterday, today is Nokia’s turn, but things are strangely quiet from Huawei. Come on, you’re not going to let a bit of aggro from the US keep you down are you?

Huawei and China Mobile stick a 5G base station on Mount Everest

Chinese telecoms giants Huawei and China Mobile have chosen the highest mountain in the world to make some kind of point about how great they are at 5G.

They put a base station 6,500 meters up Mount Everest, from which they reckon people will be able to access 5G from the summit. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You get to the top of the world and fancy streaming the footie while you’re up there. Until now bored climbers were forced to talk to each other at the summit, but no longer.

There’s a distinctly nationalistic flavour to the stunt too. “It comes on the 60th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest from the northern slope and the 45th anniversary of China’s first official accurate measurement of Mount Everest,” declared the press release. “Significantly, the 5G network on Mount Everest will provide communication services for the 2020 Mount Everest re-measurement.”

Maybe that measurement 45 years ago wasn’t so accurate after all then. The border of China and Nepal goes through the peak of Mount Everest, with China claiming the northern half, which is presumably where this base station has been placed. The announcement performs the usual chest-beating about the technological and commercial prowess this demonstrates on the part of the two companies involved, but we’ll spare you the gory details.

“Huawei strongly believes that technology means to make the world better,” concluded the press release. “The beauty of Mount Everest can be displayed via 5G high-definition video and VR experience, which also provides further insights for mountaineers, scientists and other specialists into the nature. The ground-breaking establishment on Mount Everest once again proves that 5G technology connect mankind and the Earth harmoniously.”

Whether the growing legions of 5G conspiracy theorists will agree is distinctly uncertain. After all, what better way to control the minds of the world than to beam malevolent radiation from the top of it? Having said that, if any of them manage to vandalize this 5G base station they at least deserve top marks for effort. Here’s a diagram to explain why they may be mistaken.

Huawei launches its own 5G chip

Huawei doesn’t feel like waiting for chip companies to get their act together on 5G so it has decided to make one of its own.

The Balong 5000 was launched in Beijing today. It supports all the previous generations of cellular technology as well as all the 5G frequencies. Huawei says it can deliver 4.6 Gbps at sub-6 Ghz and 6.5 Gbps over millimeter wave. It also claims to be the first chip to support both standalone and non-standalone 5G architectures and the first to support V2X communications.

“The Balong 5000 will open up a whole new world to consumers,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group. “It will enable everything to sense, and will provide the high-speed connections needed for pervasive intelligence.”

Huawei also launched the 5G CPR Pro, a 5G router that uses wifi 6 technology to claim speeds of almost 5 Gbps. “Powered by the Balong 5000, the Huawei 5G CPE Pro enables consumers to access networks more freely and enjoy an incredibly fast connected experience,” said Yu. “Huawei has an integrated set of capabilities across chips, devices, cloud services, and networks. Building on these strengths, as the leader of the 5G era, we will bring an inspired, intelligent experience to global consumers in every aspect of their lives.”

Not content with attacking the consumer market, Huawei also launched the Tiangang 5G base station chip. It too lays claim to having all the bells and whistles, including the ability to control 64 beamforming channels, enhanced computing capacity and greater power efficiency.

“Huawei now has industry-leading capabilities to deliver end-to-end 5G, with simplified 5G networks and simplified operations & maintenance,” said said Ryan Ding, Huawei Executive Director of the Board and Carrier Business Group CEO. “We are leading the commercial rollout of 5G, and building a mature industry ecosystem.”

These launches come at a good time for Huawei, considering all the negative publicity it has been getting recently. Yu used the launch event to make some pretty bullish statements, including his belief that Huawei will overtake Samsung to become the world’s number one smartphone vendor before long. He also teased the launch of a foldable 5G phone at MWC in a month’s time.

Nokia uses it silicon secret sauce to make new ReefShark chipsets

Uniquely among major networking vendors Nokia is keen to talk-up its chip design credentials, with the latest lot designed to help base stations get with the 5G programme.

The chipset family is called ReefShark, for some reason. We guess Nokia’s marketing department thought it was time its products got sexier, tougher-sounding names. That seemed to work well for Qualcomm with Snapdragon which, despite being named after a flower, went big on the sinister giant lizard imagery in its marketing.

ReefShark actually consists of three distinct chipsets, so it’s technically a school of ReefSharks (or whatever the collective noun for sharks is – apparently a shiver of sharks is a thing, who knew?) Wikipedia says there are four main varieties of Reef Shark, so there are naming opportunities there too.

One addresses the digital front end for LTE and 5G radio systems supporting massive MIMO, one is a RFIC (Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit) front-end module and transceiver designed to be a massive MIMO adaptive antenna solution. And the last one is a baseband processor with a compute-heavy design, aimed at supporting the massive scale requirements of 5G.

Why do we need special super-duper silicon for all this stuff? 5G of course. The digital front end is the interface between the antenna and transceiver and once 5G turns up will need to do a lot more processing to optimise the signal. The RFIC chip integrates a lot of previously discrete components, much like the SoC in a smartphone, thus generating efficiencies. Ultimately the three chipsets are collectively designed to boost both the performance and efficiency of base stations to support the massively increased scale of 5G.

Henri Tervonen, CTO of Nokia Mobile, was predictably pleased with the new chipset family. “With ReefShark, Nokia has created a clear competitive advantage. Its combination of power, intelligence and efficiency make it ideally suited to be at the heart of fast arriving 5G networks.”

The last big Nokia silicon announcement clearly happened before the shark memo was circulated, resulting in the much more prosaically-named FP4 chipset. But Nokia is doing a good job of differentiating itself from its competitors with all of this silicon talk, and we would imagine that having your own, bespoke chipset is quite a handy USP for its sales team to have at its disposal.

In a separate announcement Nokia talked up its Future X architecture for 5G, which includes all the ReefShark cleverness previously described. It looks like Future X is the broader 5G network brand for Nokia, also encompassing the Full Monty of 5G products and services. In fact here they are:

  • Nokia 5G New Radio
  • Nokia AirScale Radio Access
  • Nokia’s 5G AirScale active antennas
  • Nokia’s 5G Small Cells
  • Nokia 5G Anyhaul
  • Nokia 5G Core
  • Nokia Massive Scale Access
  • 5G Acceleration Services

“With our 5G Future X portfolio we are opening up network data and network intelligence to our customers to jointly program and tailor machine learning and automation that runs on our new silicon,” said Marc Rouanne, president of Mobile Networks at Nokia.

“The Future X architecture invented by our Nokia Bell Labs research has made it possible to mix the knowledge across Nokia, between IP, Optics, RF, software and innovative in-house silicon. We now expect to be able to deliver unprecedented capabilities and efficiencies that will allow our customers to transform their service offering for 5G.”

As you can see from that bullet-list, it takes a lot of parts to make an ‘end-to-end 5G solution’ and Nokia seems to be trying to rationalise that messaging process, which is no laughing matter. We’ll leave you with a video about the new chipsets and a documentary on black tip reef sharks going about their apex predator business.