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Nokia embraces the future with 5G expansion and 6G plans

Nokia is finally embracing the future and catching up. “6G in 2030 is our visionary year,” Nokia’s Head of Europe, Rolf Werner, claimed. The legacy phone maker signed two deals to improve and expand 5G networks across South Africa, Algeria and Tunisia. Along with a rebrand of its logo in a strategy shift and announcing a new DIY repairable phone, it has some bold ideas for 6G applications, including human chip and sensor implants.

- Nokia signed deals with MTN South Africa and Ooredoo Algeria and Tunisia to improve and expand 5G networks across Africa.

- The tech company seeks to shift from legacy phone maker to business technology company with ambitious plans for 6G, including human NFC chip and sensor implants.

- The Defiance 5G Next Gen Connectivity ETF is up 8.24% year-to-date.

5G expansion in Africa

Finnish telecom company Nokia [NOK] made two new deals to expand 5G networks in Africa.

It made a deal with MTN South Africa [MTN] to become one of its 5G Radio Access Network infrastructure providers. As part of the deal, Nokia will update the existing 2G, 3G and 4G radio network and broaden MTN’s 5G radio network over 2,800 sites, covering both urban and rural areas in Central and Eastern South Africa.

In another deal, it is working to improve Ooredoo Group’s [ORDS.QA] 5G radio networks and establish new sites in Algeria and Tunisia.

The tech company will also boost its stake in Ooredoo Algeria’s network to nearly 50% and Tunisia’s network to about 40%.

Nokia will contribute equipment from its energy-efficient AirScale product portfolio, including 5G AirScale baseband, MIMO active antennas and remote radio heads.

Bold 6G dreams

6G technology has already begun generating chatter as the next ground-breaking thing, and Nokia is one of the speculators about its potential applications - perhaps even more ambitious than most.

It came up with a range of sci-fi use cases at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, held the week of 27 February. Implanting devices in humans, such as NFC chips and scanners that can calculate the bodily information of crowds were some of the ideas it presented.

During the event, Nokia’s Head of Europe, Rolf Werner, told Telecoms.com, “I can even show myself as an example – I’m chipped. So in the future, I think that’s going to be an active communication vehicle. This is a passive one, you can only read it by NFC, but for the future, it will be active whether it’s here or somewhere else – the brain, maybe glasses. Whatever we see higher bandwidth, lower latency, we can do much more stuff in real time in the future… there’s a lot of fantasy around what’s going to come. And we have, of course, a few ideas of what’s possible.”

One of the potential functions of 6G that Nokia highlighted is the ability to ‘sense’ different kinds of information. “Temperature, wavelength, infrared, you can do stuff which goes all around,” Werner elaborated. “You can tune an airport don’t have to show a passport… you walk through because the network is able to gain information from everything you have… there’s a lot of stuff coming around. 6G in 2030 is our visionary year, or that’s when we think it will kick in. Of course, a lot of things have to happen before that.”

Rebranding and DIY phones

Nokia is revamping its branding strategy for the first time in 60 years as it tries to reposition itself from a legacy mobile phone company to a business technology one.

The move is reflected in a new minimalist logo designed to shift consumer perception away from only associating it with mobile phones.

Meanwhile, Nokia is also launching one of the first budget DIY repairable phones. The Nokia G22 model is designed by manufacturer HMD Global with an easily removable back, allowing users to swap out the battery in under five minutes under a partnership with iFixit. The phone is partially made of recycled plastic and will be available for purchase on 8 March across the UK.

Funds in focus

Nokia is among the top five holdings in the Defiance 5G Next Gen Connectivity ETF [FIVG], with a 4.16% weighting as of 3 March. It was down 11.05% in the last month and up 8.24% year-to-date.

The iShares Future Cloud 5G and Tech ETF [IDAT] also offers exposure to companies in the 5G space. As of 3 March, it includes a 2.25% holding of Nokia shares. The fund was down 4.39% in the last month but is up 9.47% year-to-date.

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