Nokia as the role model for leading 3GPP standardization
Standards ensure that products and services from different manufacturers can connect and interoperate seamlessly with each other, enabling end-users and communication service providers (CSPs) to pick and mix between products and services in an open and competitive market. We believe that standardized access to communication technologies will play a key role in accelerating and achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which are the blueprint for a better and more sustainable future. In this respect, Nokia has a great responsibility not only for presenting the best-of-the-industry innovations to the standards ecosystem as a result of world-class research, but also for steering the standards development organizations (SDOs) as the role model amid geopolitical tensions and global competition over standards leadership.
Nokia has invested more than EUR 130 billion in R&D since 2000 and plays a major role in the development of global open standards, e.g., in 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) that is surely the most predominant consortium with seven organizational partners (ARIB, ATIS, CCSA, ETSI, TSDSI, TTA, TTC). In 3GPP, our internationally renowned experts have led 5G standardization, chairing some of the most important working groups, holding rapporteur positions for the key standards items, and shaping the central specifications and their evolution with top-quality standardization inputs. In fact, Nokia contributors stand out when we look at the 3GPP Excellence Award roll of honor.
Thanks to the well-established and successful collaboration among various industry players and SDOs, 3GPP has shaped cellular standards from 3G to 5G, with tremendous impact on society and the economy. While 3GPP has proven what a successful example of standardization can unlock in the last two decades, it is not free of its own challenges toward 2030. Nokia and like-minded companies are working together to ensure 3GPP will be fit for 6G.
Nokia leads in 5G innovation
One of the major challenges of the 3GPP ecosystem is the ever-growing workload. As an example, the number of approved change requests (CRs) has almost doubled between 2015 and 2021. To cope with the ever-increasing workload, various 3GPP working groups have implemented new working practices. However, the fierce competition over the quantity of standardization inputs continues to challenge the workings of the 3GPP machinery. Analyst and vendor reports further fuel the race for quantity. In these reports we often observe that apples and oranges are added together to claim standards leadership as if they were equivalent; as a result, the true impact of a standards work item and related high-quality inputs are lost among five-digit numbers and “favorable” graphs. Therefore, we feel obliged to explain how Nokia acts as the standardization leader with a few proof points.
5G is the first communications standard designed to enable a wide variety of consumer and industry use cases. In this respect, the 5G evolution from Release 16 to Release 17 was a milestone to catalyze Industry 4.0, and a stepping stone toward supporting more demanding applications (e.g., AR/VR) and new types of devices (e.g., wearables). While there were tens of Release 16 and 17 work items, the “key 5G differentiators” were studied under several work items (WI), such as Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications, Industrial IoT (including Time Sensitive Communication), Non-Public Networks, and Support of Reduced Capability New Radio (NR) devices. These WIs produced roughly ten percent of all the specification changes from the major working groups (WGs), RAN1/2/3/4, SA2/3, and CT1/4. As shown in the figure below, we, in fact, owned the largest share of these specification changes despite having fewer endorsed CRs than two of our competitors when all the 3GPP WIs are counted equally. It is only one of the proof points showing Nokia’s value-driven approach to standards, which dictates that we create high-quality specifications incorporating innovative solutions that match the real needs of the industry and society.
Along with our efforts in 3GPP, Nokia actively participated early in collaborative research projects to benefit from outside-in work and connect the research, industry and standards ecosystems, and eventually create future-proof standards to serve the industries enabling new applications with stringent requirements. For instance, Nokia participated in the German BMBF funded project, KICK, which blended well with the standardization work on the 5G differentiators. Other noteworthy examples that enabled us to bridge research, standards and real-world applications are the Industry 4.0 trial that we worked together with NTT DOCOMO and OMRON and the 5G Smart Sea Port trial that took place in collaboration with Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) and Deutsche Telekom (DT). The vision has been further supported by our active role in 5G-ACIA, which is the leading industry engagement forum focusing on 5G for Industries & Automation, where we have led the work on reports and whitepapers (e.g., on Private Networks and 5G performance for IIoT). Overall, the whole research and standards ecosystems greatly benefited from Nokia’s purpose-driven and innovation-focused multi-leg approach during the first phase of 5G standards evolution.
With Release 18 kicking off recently, we have entered the 5G-Advanced era, which is built upon the key 5G differentiators from Release 16 to Release 17. 5G-Advanced may bring another uplift via enhancements for Extended Reality (XR). Nokia recently started to drive the 5G New Radio (NR) WI on XR at 3GPP and we envision it as the first essential step before moving to Metaverse. Therefore, we are once again ready to act as a role model and lead the successful standardization of XR enhancements rooted in research and standards ecosystems simultaneously. As a matter of fact, we have already begun to lead 5G-Advanced from the thought leadership perspective by being the top destination for 5G-Advanced content on the web.
Nokia’s innovation leadership is built on quality
While the given examples describe how we have shaped 5G evolution and our plans to impact 5G-Advanced standards, it is also fair to note that this is not enough to claim standardization leadership. There is still a risk of being biased by our own technology view and how we count and assess hundreds of standardization inputs. At the end of the day, if we want to draw a 3GPP leadership picture free of biases, we must measure the quality of standardization inputs, especially when ranking the top quantity contributors. In this respect, as noted by analyst and competitor reports, Nokia undoubtedly leads the 3GPP standardization in terms of quality in the key technology areas. Needlessly to produce any “favorable” graph, this also objectively justifies our mode of operation, which is not to trade off quality against quantity, keeping the 3GPP ecosystem efficient, innovation-focused and future-proof. While one can define various metrics to claim leadership, it is the metric of which we are the proudest!
It is also noteworthy that we own one of the broadest and strongest patent portfolios in the mobile communications sector with around 20,000 patent families, which includes more than 4,000 patent families declared as essential to 5G standards. In this regard, based on independent studies, we are ranked number one for standard essential patents, including 5G. Our IPR leadership built on quality further strengthens our position in innovation leadership, coupled with our leadership in research and standards ecosystems similarly built on quality.
We would like to recall what the former 3GPP RAN Chairman, Balazs Bertenyi, said about standardization leadership in his blog post in 2019: “In reality, flooding 3GPP standards meetings with contributions is extremely counterproductive. The efficiency and success of the standards process is measured in output, not input. It is much more valuable to provide focused and well-scrutinized quality input, as this maximizes the chances of coming to high-quality technical agreements and results.” On this point, we, as in the past, will stay committed to lead standardization in terms of the quality of standardization inputs for a better and more sustainable future where the standardized access to the communication technologies will play a major role. We invite our 3GPP friends to follow our path for maintaining a single united ecosystem with a healthy, innovation-focused environment toward 6G and beyond.