Whereas all vendors should benefit from the absence of Huawei, particularly in Europe and the US, Nokia should benefit more as it is an end-to-end supplier like Huawei, according to a new report.
Nokia is one of the pioneers of the mobile industry but it has been struggling in recent years. The company's mobile access division still dwarfs its other business units and it has yet to fully reap the benefits of the 2016 acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent.
"Clearly, the process of transforming Nokia from a mobile-only infrastructure provider into a broader based end-to-end communications infrastructure player has taken longer than expected," said Gareth Owen, associate research director at Counterpoint Research.
The report said that Nokia looks broadly on track to revive its 5G RAN (radio access network) business in the short-term.
"Although the loss of the Verizon contract in the US was clearly disappointing, the company has won several RAN contracts since then, including a major contract to replace Huawei at BT," Owen said.
Nokia has won several strategic non-RAN contracts from a number of high-profile players during the past few months. These include Apple, Baidu, Tencent, Dish Networks and most recently Equinix.
Nokia is well-positioned to benefit from the 5G investment spending cycle from communications service providers (CSPs) and enterprises and will be buoyed by other macro trends such as Covid-19 related bandwidth demands (both in mobile and fixed networks) as well as the trend towards converged and multi-use networks.
However, there are some execution risks in the short term.
"With Huawei banned from several markets, Nokia must demonstrate that it can increase its RAN market share over the next few months and years in the face of stronger competition from Samsung Networks and open RAN new entrants," Owen elaborated.
As well as benefiting from the 5G RAN opportunity, Nokia is also focused on diversification away from its core MNO (mobile network operator) customer base.
Backed by the world-renowned Bell Labs, the company has significant competitive strengths in technology, including in-house silicon expertise.
However, with the transition to cloud RAN and the introduction of open RAN, the mobile industry ecosystem will witness unprecedented changes over the next five to 10 years with many new entrants.
"To survive in this new world, incumbents such as Nokia must urgently address this challenge and adapt accordingly. The company's efforts to lead in the open RAN space is clearly an example of this," Owen said.
There will be changes at Nokia in 2021 as new CEO Pekka Lundmark implements his vision to re-position the company for the future.
"Nokia needs to urgently increase R&D investment, especially in 5G, including sorting out any 5G product performance and quality issues".
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