Anyone past a certain age may still think of Nokia as the world’s leading maker of mobile phones. But in fact, the company sold that business to Microsoft in 2014. Today, Nokia specializes in providing data-networking equipment, software and services to enterprises and service providers.
The Espoo, Finland-based company’s growth strategy centers on acquisitions. Nokia in recent years acquired Motorola wireless networks, Comptel, Gainspeed, Unium, SpaceTime Insight and Alcatel-Lucent (including Bell Labs). New investment areas include 5G, the internet of things (IoT) and expansion into key vertical industries.
It’s a big business. For Nokia’s latest fiscal year, net sales totaled €22.56 billion (approximately $25 billion). And the company employs more than 100,000 people worldwide.
Karl Bream is vice president, Strategy and Portfolio, Enterprise Group, at Nokia. He joined Nokia in 2015 as part of the company’s acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. At the latter, he held senior leadership positions in corporate strategy, marketing, sales and business development.
Q: Tell us about Nokia’s new Enterprise Group and its charter.
A: We launched the Nokia Enterprise business group in January 2019 as part of our growth mission. We’ve been investing in enterprise for probably a decade or two, building mission-critical networks primarily in the transportation, energy and public sector verticals. We felt the business had grown materially, and we saw additional opportunity in private wireless networks and Industrial IoT, so we decided to create this new business group.
My own workday is centered on where we want to take Nokia in Industrial IoT, and what portfolio of products and services we need to build for our enterprise and service-provider clients.
Q: Which key technologies are you working with?
A: The industrial IoT is at an inflection point driven by private wireless demand. Companies — especially heavy-asset companies — are looking to digitalize their businesses functions, operations and processes, and create digital twins of their equipment. This has proved to be an opportunity, because existing WiFi networks won’t support many of the industrial use cases that require new levels of latency and performance. While WiFi can support many office use cases, now we’re seeing more and more industrial areas where LTE or a 5G network is going to properly serve those companies.
And this is where we, as Nokia Enterprise, have an insertion point, to expand and support industrial clients who need private wireless. In addition, we have built expertise on the manufacturing and logistics segments, where we think private wireless will provide significant value. That’s really our focus.
Nokia Enterprise has been growing quickly, and the Industrial IoT opportunity can help us accelerate that growth as we move forward.
Q: You also oversee Nokia’s IoT strategy, right?
A: That’s right, I wear two hats at Nokia as our IoT strategy spans both our CSP (communications service provider)-focused business and our enterprise-focused business. Our CSP customers ask us to help them create high-performance, highly secure connectivity and applications platforms that help them address the needs of their consumer and enterprise end customers. We do that with our network solutions such as Narrow Band IoT and 5G, our IoT Platform for subscriber and device management, and our WING (Worldwide IoT Network Grid) platform.
Our enterprise clients rely on us to solve their business challenges with private networking solutions and Industrial IoT automation.
Likewise, our enterprise clients rely on us to solve their business challenges with private networking solutions and Industrial IoT automation. We address networking through our private LTE now and will address private 5G next. We also address digitization and industrial automation opportunities through our Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (NDAC) and Analytics and IoT portfolios. These capabilities help enterprises address their operational optimization, operations security, digitization and mirroring/twinning, and condition-based maintenance challenges.
Q: What can you tell us about WING (Worldwide IoT Network Grid), Nokia’s managed service for global IoT deployments?
A: WING is a platform that supports our CSP customers to create value for their enterprise customers, particularly multi-national enterprises. While several CSPs have significant global presence, the WING pay-as-you-grow service built on a globally distributed cloud native core is attractive to many because they can quickly deliver an IoT solution that includes connectivity and applications. This turns out to be faster and more agile than building pairwise agreements with tens or hundreds of other CSPs to gain the coverage that multi-national enterprises require. We have WING customers of various sizes and footprints, but all can serve their clients globally with WING.
In addition to global connectivity, WING also delivers IoT applications on a global scale. These include services such as logistics, asset management, smart agriculture and livestock management, all as a service.
We recently announced a partnership with Microsoft that included the WING service. We believe that partnership will help make IoT applications and the associated global connectivity more easily consumed on a global scale.
Q: Expansion into new vertical industries is another part of Nokia’s growth strategy. What are the main areas of focus for you?
A: We have strong, long-standing relationships in the transportation, energy and public sector industries. These industries began transitioning their mission- critical networks back in 2000. These customers trust the reliability and performance of the networks we have built and continue to build with them now as they deploy private wireless networks and industrial automation and analytics solutions. Today, we are one of the leaders in sub-segments like ports, mines and electric utilities, where our solutions are delivering great return on investment.
Extending from those verticals, we began serving web players with technology that supports the transition to hyperscale, hybrid cloud networks. We have a key set of customers in this segment today.
We now have started serving manufacturing and logistics customers who are front-runners in adopting industrial automation and Industrial IoT. These are the types of customers who are investing in private wireless for the security, latency, mobility, performance and lower total cost of ownership the new networks can bring.
For more on business transformation and progress, read “Connecting digital islands: Bridging the business transformation gap,” a global survey of business and technology executives. This Q&A appears in the survey report.