We spoke with Phil Siveter, CEO of Nokia for the UK and Ireland, about consumer 5G, saving the environment with digital transformation, and how he sees his company’s purpose as using ‘partnerships and technology to help the world.’
We still appear to be waiting for a killer app for 5G on the consumer side. We’ve also had lots of reports out saying there needs to be a lot more infrastructure spending in the UK to in order for 5G to ever reach its potential. Where are we with the consumer side of 5G, and do you think it will it will ever be a particularly large consumer factor or is it going to turn out to be mainly an industrial/commercial technology?
There’s no question 5G is going to have an important role to play in consumer. There have been stories that have come out saying we’ve already got over 50% coverage for 5G in the UK now, and that shows that significant investment has happened and the rollouts are moving at pace – can we do more? We can have that discussion if needed, but people need bandwidth – the demand for bandwidth and consumption, particularly with video, isn’t going away, people being mobile isn’t going away.
We can talk about if people are frustrated about whether there is a killer app, but there’s no question that people are using 5G today. They are consuming it with phones and technology today. They’re getting a better service. They’re getting better download speeds. They’re getting a better quality of service. And so there’s no question that it will continue to have an important role to play for consumer. To echo your point, industry is where we can see dramatic change, and we can see that happening today.
We can talk about if people are frustrated about whether there is a killer app, but there’s no question that people are using 5G today.
You’re right, we’ve deployed in ports we’ve deployed in mines, we’ve deployed in factories, and what we’ve seen in all of those cases is they build the pilot on a particular use case. They’ll pick on something – we had one with a port using cameras. One of the biggest issues there was when the containers came in they would often unfortunately get damaged or affected on the way in and they have no way of tracking that, no way of understanding what happened. The whole business case was built on the fact they could track what happened and then have the conversation with the insurance company.
What they actually found was that once they deployed 5G and built the use case, they could then overlay a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth use case on top of the infrastructure. Because to your point, the big advantage of 5G is low latency but it is also huge capacity. It can cope with a huge amount of devices because of the way the antenna works. When we work with engineering, I think too often we focus on ‘we need this one use case that’s going to work’ without seeing the broad picture of the impact that 5G will have on industry in a whole range of areas as we overlay more and more use cases onto that infrastructure. And that’s the real game changing piece that 5G brings. Industry will continue to be the big focus, and we’re pretty excited about that for sure.
You’ve spoken about how digitalization can improve sustainability. It’s something I’ve heard a few companies say but on the surface it’s not immediately obvious how IT upgrades, or building more infrastructure, necessarily leads to less carbon emissions. How does digitalization of industry and business lead to limiting the environmental impact?
Let’s take the agriculture example. If you’re operating on a farm with heavy machinery that’s having to deliver crop feeds, maybe there’s irrigation involved as well, if you use that in a much more targeted fashion, because you know exactly when the crop needs feed and exactly when it needs support, you can be much more efficient with the use of that machinery and immediately generate carbon emission gains by not having to send that machinery all the time. We’ve proven a number of cases.
It’s the same when you dig a mine. Machines in mines are the size of houses and they are operating for extended periods of time. It seems like a small thing, but knowing where that is at all times, having it geo fenced and then also making sure it’s at the right place at the right time when the mine needs it actually has a dramatic impact on carbon emissions, because you’re only driving it when you exactly need to drive it. Not ‘lets move it there today or there tomorrow because we’re not really sure where it needs to be.’
There is often not one big thing that suddenly changes, what there is a series of really important incremental steps that together do have a dramatic effect on the carbon that’s produced in these heavy industries.
There is often not one big thing that suddenly changes, what there is a series of really important incremental steps that together do have a dramatic effect on the carbon that’s produced in these heavy industries. I would say the same in a manufacturing plant. We ourselves have a manufacturing plant and certainly in terms of productivity and efficiency, it has improved in the region of 30% in things like material feeds. Those gains in productivity also mean you don’t necessarily have to run the factory so hot, and you can be targeted about when you need to deliver.
All of these things have a have an important impact on the carbon production and of that plant. There is no question for me that better technology deployed will have a dramatic impact. We cannot get the gains without this kind of technology. This is very clear to us.
This is a critical topic for Nokia. We talk about this corporately in two areas. We talk about handprint and footprint. We’re taking steps to address our own footprint, how effective the manufacturing is, how we’re shipping, we’re doing some great innovative things. For example in our fixed network business, they’ve done a huge amount of work and won a number of awards around how we box the equipment to make sure we streamline how much cargo cardboard we’re using and how effective we are at delivering that from a carbon neutral perspective.
And then secondly, from our footprint point of view, how can we help our customers, and the customers of our customers be more efficient with what they do. Whether it be in the 5G transformation industries, whether it be how we deploy our IP networks, whether it be how we deploy our RAN. This is it where we’re spending a lot of time on helping our customers in this area for sure.
Often these sorts of aspirations are talked about in tandem with organisations setting themselves targets to become carbon neutral, or relying entirely on renewable energy. Is that all a bit up in the air at the moment as the energy crisis rolls on? How easy is it to make these sorts of predictions of how exactly every element of a supply chain will get its energy when governments and the energy firms are having to react to the current events?
The CBI director has said that as companies we can’t afford for companies to stop their innovation and investment in the carbon and climate change agenda. Because we can see the impact so clearly across the globe. You’ve only really got to look at what’s happened with the weather we’ve seen over the last six months… the drought across certain parts of the world has a dramatic impact on the food production issue, which of course in turn has an impact on price rises.
Because of the drought across Europe, the EU’s production of sunflowers is going to dramatically fall this year, and that means a big rise in prices and that affects a whole range of industries. Not just as individuals, but it effects hospitality as well.
Going back to the energy piece, lack of water means dams, which are obviously used quite a lot across Europe to produce hydroelectric power, are less productive. That means we have to rely more on coal and we go in this vicious cycle. So I think the point here is you can’t afford not to drive on this point. Targets drive focus and drive priorities. And this is a priority. And so there’s no question we need to continue to drive on this space.
You’ve spoken about the digital divide, and about bridging the gap between the digital and physical industries. What do you mean by that?
The digital divide is important. The covid pandemic piece really reflected how critical connectivity to the home was for everybody. It certainly created a scenario where people that had effective comms at home could work, support and continue to operate, and those that didn’t struggled massively.
In the UK if we look back even five years ago when fibre to the home penetration was very low, one of the lowest in Europe… the influx of investment into this space has been hugely welcomed from everybody, whether that’s the incumbent, or altnets or others, this investment is huge and improving connectivity for everybody. And of course programmes like the government’s Giganet programme which helps to address that in the more challenging areas is obviously important as well.
We’ve seen a massive transformation in what we call the digital industries, retail banking, etc. But what we would cite as the physical industries, mining, manufacturing plants… these haven’t had the same kind of productivity increases because of technology change.
Broadband in terms of the digital economy is really important, and we are big advocates of finding different models and trying and trying to unlock that. How can we work more closely as a vendor with our customers and with government to build the business cases to unlock this in other areas?
In terms of the physical side of things, that touches on a bit of the industry 4.0 piece that we were talking about. We’ve seen a massive transformation in what we call the digital industries, retail banking, etc. But what we would cite as the physical industries, mining, manufacturing plants, etc, these industries which actually tend to dominate GDP and job creation, haven’t had the same kind of productivity increases because of technology change. This is where we can drive that kind of change.
You’ve also mentioned the importance of ‘unfettered collaboration’ between operators, vendors, webscalers, developers, and customers to innovate on ‘applications and services of the future’. What do the applications the future look like?
If I knew all of those, I’d probably be speculating a little definitely around that. At Nokia we have built and we are a fundamental part of the UK and our technology is frankly everywhere. We’re supporting the fixed network rollout, we’re supporting the big IP and optical networks, we’re supporting the data centres around cloud services, security… I mean we are an intrinsic part of how the UK operates.
And our technology helps the UK differentiate in all of those areas. And so that puts us in a really good position in terms of ‘how can we collaborate more to do more for the UK?’ How can we help plants be more productive and therefore more competitive on the global stage? How can we make sure our data centres are energy efficient, and support the industry with this move to cloud how can we make sure we’re deploying the RAN to 5G networks?
We are really wanting to work with partners and with our customers to find innovative ways to continue to accelerate. And I don’t think there’s anyone in the market in the division we are that can really do that, to unlock this value.
Because we are in each of these areas, there [we have] a call to action on collaboration. We are really wanting to work with partners and with our customers to find innovative ways to continue to accelerate. And I don’t think there’s anyone in the market in the division we are that can really do that, to unlock this value. And we are super keen to do more. We’re building a very strong partner ecosystem, and we’re investing a lot of time and energy in this space. And we’ve announced a number of partnerships, as well as working with our obviously most important customers here in the UK, BT Vodafone, O2, Three, etc.
We are using this strong technology base we have to help create these ecosystems to try and accelerate the change. And that really lends itself to Nokia’s purpose – we create the technology to help the world act together. And so as we produce the some of the best technology, we’re getting some of the best partnerships, and we are absolutely clear that our purposes is to use those partnerships and that technology to help the world.