As lighting fast as 5G is touted, upgrading infrastructure to carry the next generation network has been on the slow side. According to VentureBeat, telecoms’ challenges in upgrading existing 4G towers include massive expenses, permitting issues, and a shortage of climbers. Enter Finnish telecom Nokia with an alternative solution.
This week, Nokia announced a remedy to the slow tower upgrade challenge, software that can convert 5 million existing 4G tower radios to 5G without tower climbs, or site revisits. According to the company, the software update is currently available for approximately 1 million 4G tower radios and will expand to 3.1 million by the end of 2020. Next year, Nokia anticipates a number of around 5 million to help scale 5G deployments.
Nokia estimates that its software solution could reduce 5G deployment time and save carriers’ tens of billions, although the software upgrade cost has not yet been disclosed. Along with the positives, according to VentureBeat, comes one glaring issue: the upgraded Nokia radios will still operate on 4G radio frequencies (2.5 GHz and below). Instead of those in the 24-39 GHz range, lower frequencies will be “re-farmed” for 5G, either entirely or in a dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) arrangement between 4G and 5G, reported VentureBeat.
The re-farming process will enable both 5G where 4G already exists, Nokia says, and enhanced 5G performance in areas with early dedicated 5G infrastructure. In addition, most of Nokia’s existing 4G customers can upgrade units to 5G with the new software, which will also support carrier aggregation. This aggregation will enable 5G devices to simultaneously use two radio frequencies, resulting in higher speeds — one frequency might be purely low band 5G, while the other could be split between 4G and 5G with DSS.