Nokia SoC expert Veijo Kontas argued it had gained ground in the sector following a large-scale turnaround programme, but noted the game is about to change as the 6G era dawns.

The head of SoC development with Nokia Mobile Networks told a select group of journalists a call to arms by the unit’s president Tommi Uitto to improve its standing in the sector had resulted in the company taking a leading position in basebands and being competitive on the radio side.

Kontas said it could now begin to consider 6G in its future SoCs, though is largely focused on 5G and 5G-Advanced, technologies which are themselves “putting very heavy requirements” on semiconductors used in integrated circuits.

The initial signs are 6G will impact SoCs heavily, bringing a need for much higher capacity and data rates “overall and per user”.

Quicker than a ray of light
Kontas explained latency remains a key challenge, explaining data travelling at “the speed of light” can cover a maximum of 20 kilometres over fibre, meaning the equipment used to process data “has to be very close”.

The expert added he had told Nokia Bell Labs it must do something because the speed of light is “way too slow”, while joking the research unit has also yet to meet his call to develop a viable time machine.

Kontas said the research arm provides “good, disruptive technologies” which are a point of differentiation for Nokia, citing early work on 6G which appears to be paying off as requirements around AI and ML rapidly come to the foreground.

He explained AI will “learn how the operators behave” and adapt accordingly, opening the potential to “get more capacity out of the same resources” through updated algorithms, a move offering advantages “at all levels of the radio stack”.

There are also lessons to be applied from the mobile phone industry, he argued, citing the need for high levels of security being created by open infrastructure moves and a burgeoning IoT sector.