Nokia CEO addresses need for full fibre infrastructure in UK’s 5G roll-out

Nokia CEO explains the importance of full fibre and why UK operators should consider it in 5G launch

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As UK telecom operators continue to express their concerns with the lack of progress from the government on full fibre broadband, Nokia’s UK and Ireland CEO says it will be critical to the successful rollout of 5G connectivity.

Already, the UK has seen EE launch in six cities and Vodafone and Three UK are soon expected to join the rollout saga in the coming months. However, as the next gigabit of connectivity arrives, a debate is starting to emerge regarding whether operators are distributing this network in the right way.

Image: Cormac Whelan, CEO UK/ Ireland, Nokia
Image: Cormac Whelan, CEO UK/ Ireland, Nokia

“5G isn’t just about mobile technology. It’s not just the next G, it’s a whole coming together of 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, wireless and fixed and it all hangs together on fibre,” Cormac Whelan, CEO of UK and Ireland at Nokia told Computerworld UK at the Connected Britain event this week.

Read next: Companies developing 5G in the UK

According to Whelan, a number of use cases expected with 5G can only be achieved with the low latency and full fibre in place.

“Most of the use cases for 5G fall over if you don’t have high speed, backhaul capacity. It is all very well for getting to somewhere if you need to actually transmit traffic there and back. With some of the applications that may not be day one, but the use cases that are going to be coming along over the next few years are going to require super low latency,” he added.

Experts suggest that the roll-out of 5G should go hand-in-hand with a strong focus on infrastructure standards and that includes the capabilities of full fibre locations, which are less often spoken about by the network providers.

“I think it’s fair to say, and it’s not a secret, that the UK is one of the least and worst fibred nations in Europe and that’s not just in western or modern Europe but actually in all of Europe,” he said.

Despite the government’s promise to deliver full fibre broadband to most of the country by 2025, the UK was ranked last with a penetration rate of 1.3 percent in research by Market Panorama on the top European countries in fibre broadband for homes and buildings.

Read next: Telefonica UK turns to Nokia's Service Operations Centre model to lay the groundwork for 5G

How Nokia is helping

Nokia currently stands as a bidding partner for a number of fibre companies such as CityFibre and Hyperoptic. It also remains an access provider of copper and fibre to BT.

“In fibre spaces like the mobile space, we have an end-to-end service that we can provide for some customers and when they’re doing it themselves we’re providing a full roll-out service and fibre networks for the customers,” Whelan explained, in full sales pitch mode.

“From Nokia’s point of view, both in terms of what we’re doing and what we bring to the marketplace, is this end-to-end user capability and fixed and wireless access,” he added. “So it’s not just end-to-end in terms of hardware and software, its end-to-end in terms of services as well as in technology.”

Whelan emphasises the need for ‘blanket fibre’ and believes it is something that can be achieved across varied locations such as urban areas and cities.

“The fibre roll-out is going to explode that broadband to the home and business premise, but it’s also being accelerated by the need to use it for backhaul 5G so as 5G rolls out they’ll have to have fibre to do it.

“I think we’re going to start seeing blanket coverage bigger than we’ve seen in any other fixable mobile technology roll-out before, but we are way behind,” Whelan said. “We need to as a country, rapidly accelerate the fibre deployment.”

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