A Nokia exhibition stand in Shanghai in September 2018. Photo: AFP / Song Fan / Imaginechina

Nokia has won important contracts in both India and China recently, demonstrating that “both-and” still works in the “either-or” world of decoupling from China. That may be a lesson for Sweden’s Ericcson, which has taken a different route.

On October 17, Finland’s telecom infrastructure company announced that it had been selected by Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited to supply 5G radio access network equipment for what seems likely to become the largest 5G network in India and one of the largest in the world. This followed a September 3 Nokia announcement of a big deal with the State Grid Corporation of China.

Nokia ranks with Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei as one of the world’s top three providers of telecommunication equipment. According to Dell’Oro, a market research company headquartered in Redwood City, California, Nokia and Ericsson each had about 15% of the global market in 2021 while Huawei had 29%. Outside of China, Nokia and Ericsson each had about 20% of the market while Huawei had 18%

Nokia’s rival Ericsson saw its share of China’s 5G contracts drop from about 10% to 3% last year after Swedish government regulators jumped on the bandwagon to exclude equipment from Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE from Sweden’s 5G network.

Nokia did better, but 5G in China is a done deal, with Chinese companies dominating the supply chain. However, aided by a more diplomatic Finnish government, Nokia was able to turn to its well-established relationship with State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC.)

Finnish law allows authorities to ban the use of telecom equipment when there are “serious grounds for suspecting that the use of the device endangers national security or national defense.”

Unlike Sweden, and in obvious avoidance of the US policy of confrontation, Finland does not exclude equipment vendors based on nationality and has not mentioned Huawei or other Chinese companies by name.

The Indian deal

Reliance Jio is India’s largest mobile telecommunications network operator. Part of Reliance Industries, a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Mumbai, it acquired the necessary spectrum from India’s Department of Telecommunications at the beginning of August.

Image: Comp Studio

Nokia has had a presence in India since 2G was launched in 2000. It has about 16,000 employees working at project offices in 26 cities, a manufacturing site in Chennai, service centers in Chennai and Noida, a technology center in Bangalore and its headquarters in Cyber City, Gurgaon, near Delhi.

The equipment to be supplied by Nokia includes base stations, high-capacity 5G massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas, remote radio units (transceivers found on wireless base stations) to support different spectrum bands and self-organizing network software.

According to the press release, “Reliance Jio plans to deploy a 5G standalone network which will interwork with its 4G network. The network will enable Reliance Jio to deliver advanced 5G services such as massive machine-to-machine communications, network slicing and ultra-low-latency.”

Reliance Jio is very ambitious. “Jio’s 5G solution is made in India, by Indians and to suit the need of every Indian,” the press release announcing its acquisition of spectrum for 5G says.

“Jio is fully ready for 5G rollout in the shortest period of time because of its nationwide fiber presence, all-IP network with no legacy infrastructure, indigenous 5G stack and strong global partnerships across the technology ecosystem,” it continues.

Chairman Akash Ambani (the son of Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani) was quoted as saying:

We have always believed that India will become a leading economic power in the world by adopting the power of breakthrough technologies. This was the vision and conviction that gave birth to Jio. The speed, scale and societal impact of Jio’s 4G rollout is unmatched anywhere in the world. Now, with a bigger ambition and stronger resolve, Jio is set to lead India’s march into the 5G era….

Jio is committed to offering world-class, affordable 5G and 5G-enabled services. We will provide services, platforms and solutions that will accelerate India’s digital revolution, especially in crucial sectors like education, healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing and e-governance.

Power grid network in China

In its September announcement, Nokia said that SGCC had decided to deploy a programmable optical network using its IP/Optical solutions. This should meet the growing data transmission requirements of the world’s largest electric utility. More detail was added in a follow-up announcement on October 26.

Photo: International Rivers

SGCC supplies power to more than 1.1 billion people in 26 provinces reaching across 88% of China’s national territory. The arrangement with Nokia includes new deployments in Hebei, Hunan, Jiangsu and several other provinces, plus the city of Chongqing. It follows contracts to upgrade SGCC’s optical network in Beijing and Tianjin in 2018 and Hebei before that.

IP/Optical convergence, in the words of US telecom systems, service and software company Ciena, refers to the streamlining and simplification of networking layers, in particular optical and IP (internet protocol).

As pointed out by Nokia, “Compared with wire cables, optical networks provide a more reliable, faster and higher bandwidth network for data transmission.”

The new deployment will enable the expansion of network coverage while reducing the cost of operating the system. It will, according to Nokia’s press release, create a “future-proof network that is reliable for critical and non-critical services, including operator assistance and support for businesses and multi-media services. The solution also provides the provincial backbone with bandwidth to connect high-voltage power stations and substations along the electrical power transmission line.”

Furthermore, “As power utilities such as SGCC adopt the internet of things (IoT) in the creation of smart grids, both bandwidth and complexity increase…. Through automation, the utility is able to monitor electrical power production and distribution status in real-time, using IoT sensors throughout their infrastructure. SGCC is also able to harness new energy sources such as solar, water and wind by connecting and monitoring these energy generation and storage systems across its wide geography.”

In making the deal, it probably didn’t hurt SGCC in Helsinki that Huawei runs a talent development program for university students from Finland and elsewhere in Europe.

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