Nokia has developed a new strategy and network architecture focused on industrial markets in order to capitalize on growing enterprise needs as businesses move forward with digital transformations.
The strategy, called ‘Future X for industries,’ provides an architecture designed to help businesses in industries like manufacturing, logistics, transportation and energy by leveraging new technologies (including IIoT, edge computing, AI, machine learning, and 5G), to accelerate productivity and safety.
A new Future X Lab at Nokia’s Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, is also part of the initiative, and gives the vendor a place to test, demonstrate, and verify use cases with potential customers – many of whom come in with a problem, but may not realize their networking needs, Nokia executives explained at a press event this week.
“We didn’t go looking for this, it came to us with lots of requests of ‘how can you fix my production environment because WiFi isn’t working for it,’” Marcus Weldon, Nokia CTO and president of Bell Labs, said at the event. “No one comes asking for the network, they come asking for a problem they can’t solve because of their network.”
It’s the network though, that is the “foundational fabric” supporting enterprise applications, which have stringent performance and latency requirements and demand greater precision and security.
The Future X for industries architecture also provides a framework to help guide these conversations with customers who may be more interested in the economic value of deploying new technology, than in the details of the tech itself, Nokia executives explained.
“We realized that we should stop talking and start doing,” Weldon said. This is where the dedicated lab comes into play. In the Future X Lab customers can see a build of an end-to-end network solution that supports massive network slicing, adaptability, self-optimization, and device on-boarding, among other features. The network can be configured live and an emulator, similar to a mini IMAX theater, allows Nokia to experiment and clients to experience new industrial use-cases and test end-to-end performance.
Nokia’s strategy builds on the company’s growing focus on the enterprise market, following the recent creation of an Enterprise Business Unit in October.
Weldon explained that while most network evolutions have been service-provider focused and dominated by consumer trends, industries are now realizing they’re stuck at current levels of productivity and that needs to be fixed.
“It’s a very dynamic evolution that we’re looking at and that’s why it’s so interesting,” Weldon said. Nokia uses the lab to figure out what needs to be built in for the specific customer’s network needs.
“We’re building to discover with our partners what the real performance criteria are for the many parameters we have under our control,” he added.
Enterprises not waiting for 5G
Weldon said that while 5G will bring massive enhancements to network capabilities, features of connectivity, mobility, prioritization, security, coverage and quality are not dependent on 5G.
“We’re seeing a huge demand for private LTE networks today,” he noted.
5G will enable expanded use-cases with ultra-low latency and the capacity needed for things like 360 immersive video, but IoT is already enabling many industrial applications today, according to Nokia.
Executives noted that Nokia’s products deployed for the private LTE networks are also 5G-upgradable.
Chris Johnson, SVP of Global Enterprise at Nokia, said the company’s enterprise business already has a strong position in transportation, energy and public safety sectors, but now sees digital disruption in other industrial verticals like manufacturing, government, and utilities as “extremely compelling.”
With increased needs for connectivity and visibility across physical industries― for example, on wind farms, in airports, or for mining operations― Johnson said that there’s an “enormous opportunity” for Nokia to diversify outside of its traditional service provider business.
Enterprise revenues currently make up about 5 percent of Nokia’s revenues, Johnson said, and the unit is seeing double-digit growth. He added that in the last nine months, Nokia gained more than 100 new customers with needs for large industrial networks.
Weldon noted that the idea around Nokia’s strategy is all about OT (operations technology) and ICT (information and communication technology) coming together, and said the industrial segment represents a “positive-sum game.”