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Nokia update can instantly upgrade 5 million 4G radios to 5G/NR

Nokia radios
(Image credit: Nokia)

A new software upgrade from Nokia means that millions of legacy 4G radio units can now be remotely switched to 5G/NR, without the need for engineers to climb towers and switch them manually.

In a move that will significantly lower upgrade costs and maintenance requirements for network operators, Nokia has today announced a software upgrade that will enable five million 4G/LTE radio units to be migrated to 5G/NR by 2021.

The software will provide immediate support for approximately one million radios, with a further 3.1 million units supported by the end of 2020,  and the remainder getting an upgrade during 2021. 

"This is an important solution because it will help our customers, quickly and efficiently upgrade their existing LTE radios so that they are 5G ready."

Tommi Uitto, Nokia.


“We already provide market- leading LTE radios to hundreds of customers around the world,” said Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia. “This is an important solution because it will help our customers, quickly and efficiently upgrade their existing LTE radios so that they are 5G ready saving them time and money.”

Reducing complexity and cost

By upgrading existing radio elements via software, Nokia is reducing the complexity and resource requirement of refarming 4G/LTE spectrum into 5G/NR. And the new update will provide support for existing 4G/LTE radio customers by providing them with an easy, cost-effective upgrade path to 5G/NR. 

"Efficient FDD spectrum refarming is critical for fast, broad and deep 5G deployments."

Chris Nicoll, ACG Research.

“While Open RAN promises software upgradability to ease transitions between ‘Gs’ and add new features, Nokia’s Flexi and AirScale portfolio shows it is ahead of the game by providing a software upgrade to transition over 5 million 4G radios to 5G,” said Chris Nicoll, Principal Analyst at ACG Research. “Efficient FDD spectrum refarming is critical for fast, broad and deep 5G deployments. With Nokia supplying the majority of the world’s top 4G operators, supporting key advanced features such as DSS helps those operators lead with 5G.” 

The ability to upgrade 4G/LTE radios via a software update will significantly smooth out the deployment of 5G/NR, avoiding costly and disruptive site visits, Nokia says. And the majority of the company’s 359 4G/LTE customers, using deployed FDD RF units, will now be eligible to upgrade.  

Nokia estimates that this solution will save the telecommunications industry “potentially tens of billions of euros in site engineering and re-visit costs”, as communication service providers (CSPs) are able to upgrade their networks to 5G/NR on FDD with software alone.


Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.