The cellular industry is undergoing a massive transformation. Since the arrival of Long-Term Evolution (LTE), commonly known as 4G networks, the use cases for cellular communications have exploded. In addition to selling voice and data connectivity for mobile phones, tablets, and laptop computers, cellular carriers are also enabling billions of connected devices in the form of sensors, wearables, and smart meters.
The arrival of the fifth generation of cellular connectivity (5G), with higher programmability and features such as ultra-low latency and network slicing, combined with the increasing need for higher security and reliability for critical infrastructure applications, means increased demand for private cellular networks. Analysts forecast that the private wireless network market will be more than $80 billion by 2029.
Nokia has been one of the leading private wireless network companies for several years. While Nokia sells some solutions directly to customers, it relies on a worldwide network of channel partners to reach different industries. Those partners range from cellular carriers, VARs, and MSPs to hyperscalers.
To learn more about the company’s private wireless network business and how it works with different channels, we spoke with Nathan Stenson, Vice President, Worldwide Partner Channel at Nokia.
The Channelist: Nathan, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. I have been following Nokia’s efforts in the private wireless market for many years and how that part of the business is now a significant part of the company’s strategy. Being responsible for Nokia’s channel partner business, what can you tell us about your business through the channel?
Nathan Stenson: We’ve established the enterprise business, which is a fundamental part of Nokia’s overall strategy. In fact, if you were to speak to any of the leadership team, you would hear one consistent thing about the future and what’s next: how committed we are to our belief that we can grow the enterprise part of the business significantly.
We have more than 1,500 channel partners today, spanning four main partner categories. Global Systems Integrator, GSI, which is really telco, working with telcos on either portfolio or project plays to service end customers, and VAR, of course, VARs in all countries across all regions, and finally distribution, as I mentioned earlier.
So, in summary, enterprise [sales] is very important. We have committed to it for a long time. Our indirect business already represents a large part of the enterprise business.
The Channelist: By talking to Nokia over the years, especially during the Mobile World Congress, I learned about some use cases and projects with different industries, including smart factories, power companies, and others where Nokia has been working with specialized partners. Can you tell us a little bit about those?
Nathan Stenson: Absolutely. We were the first to launch pre-integrated private wireless as a service, Nokia Digital automated cloud. That was back in 2018.
Consequently, because enterprise customers want to understand what private wireless can do for them and come to the market knowing some of the use cases where they’ll adopt private wireless, partners inevitably start asking how to take that to market. And there again, we see, for private wireless, we see it resonate most with some of our partners who have two or three of the following things:
- Our partners with a very strong network in management capability, so they have an edge networking practice already across WAN and LAN, and want to include that in their portfolio with private wireless because of some of the things that private wireless, of course, can do, and what it means to some verticals.
- Partners have successfully deployed our private wireless to the marketplace, and the winning business is that they have an established 5G practice. They have established a private wireless lighthouse within their organizations and are committed to building this and augmenting it with their networking portfolio.
- And the third one is that they’re out there already. They’re not thinking about building it or how maybe they can bring their core and add radio to it. There are plenty of partners and entities currently in the “How do we do this?” phase.
I could give examples across both telco and GSI partners where they have now curated use cases, which is a very important thing, by the way, to have a curated use case in this current market, that they can then play back to their customers to leverage for over their private wireless offering and their private wireless relevance.
The Channelist: Because of the arrival of 5G, there are now hyperscalers, Internet companies, and cloud companies such as VMware, or even Google and Microsoft, collaborating with telcos to run their networks. Are you working together with some of the hyperscalers to help your partners?
Nathan Stenson: Yes, we are. The hyperscalers are going to be very, very relevant here. Obviously, we’ve had some industry partners and entities making announcements about their entrance. That actually proves how relevant private wireless is.
The Channelist: Thank you, any last message for channel partners looking to enter this exciting new market?
Nathan Stenson: Don’t take too long. This market is now.
The Channelist: Nathan, thank you so much. We are looking forward to meeting you in Barcelona for MWC.