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Nokia, Mobily unveil world’s first sliced FWA deployment

Global comms tech provider teams with Saudi Arabian telco to pilot world’s first 4G and 5G fixed wireless access network slicing on a live commercial network

Nokia has revealed that it has successfully piloted 4G and 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) network slicing with Saudi Arabian telecommunications services provider Mobily on its live commercial network.

FWA has huge potential, especially in connecting homes and businesses in remote areas to 5G networks and address long-standing broadband connectivity issues. In a December 2020 trial that aimed to reveal how FWA can help urban, suburban and rural areas boost connectivity capacity and prove the feasibility of 5G millimetre-wave (mmWave) frequencies in powering high-speed, long-distance FWA devices, Italian operator TIM, Ericsson and Qualcomm claimed to have set a world record for long-distance speed with 5G mmWave technology.

Mobily is the brand name of the Saudi Mobily Company, offering fixed-line, mobile telephony and internet services. The ongoing pilot with Nokia, taking place in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, is designed to allow Mobily to offer new FWA services to priority consumer and enterprise customers. It is being carried out in a multi-supplier environment that includes sliced access, transport and core networks with management and assurance capabilities. It also enables slicing per application including voice, data, online gaming or home office applications.

Nokia’s 4G/5G network slicing system works in LTE, 5G non-standalone (NSA) and 5G standalone (SA) networks. It provides mobile broadband connectivity from 4G/5G devices and customer premises equipment (CPE) to cloud applications through sliced access, transport and core. With Nokia’s slicing, Mobily can divide its network into multiple virtual networks and offer FWA service tiers and premium services to its customers using network resource allocation mechanisms.

In the pilot, Mobily used Nokia’s AirScale 4G/5G base stations with its NetAct system with management, control and assurance, as well as Nokia’s routers, network services platform (NSP) and digital operations software. Mobily also used existing third-party core as well as Nokia’s FastMile 4G/5G FWA gateway and third-party CPE products. The slicing capabilities are implemented with software upgrades and configurations into Mobily’s existing network.

“Mobily continuously works in partnership with global vendors to try new innovative technologies,” said Mobily CTO Alaa Malki. “Network slicing will enable mobile operators to rapidly provide, manage and assure services within minutes. Each slice can have a different network performance, quality, routing and security capabilities as well as key performance indicators for service assurance.”

Nokia’s slicing technology supports existing LTE, 5G NSA and 5G SA devices. The slice continuity between LTE and 5G allows operators to maximally use their network coverage and assets, such as available spectrum for new mobile services. Nokia’s customers are already working on a variety of slicing use cases, including enterprise applications, transportation, manufacturing, utilities, public safety and smart city applications.

Ari Kynäslahti, head of technology and strategy at Nokia Mobile Networks, said: “For early pioneering operators, it’s important to get practical, real-life experience of the new slicing technology and its business opportunities. Nokia was the first vendor to offer a slicing solution and we are proud to continue our long-standing partnership with Mobily to offer 4G and 5G network slicing services to their customers.”

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