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Rajiv Suri Has a 10-Year Plan to Make Nokia Great Again

Though mostly a network equipment player, Nokia plans to continue dabbling in the consumer arena through brand licensing and homegrown products.

Nokia

After selling its phone business to Microsoft, Nokia had quite the identity crisis.

The company remained Finland’s biggest and best-known company, but was a shell of its former self, with disparate businesses in mapping, network equipment and patent licensing.

CEO Rajeev Suri, who had been running the networking area, decided to double down on that part of the business, selling the Here maps business to a coalition of German carmakers and acquiring network gear rival Alcatel-Lucent. Suri said it is part of a 10-year plan developed in 2014 and designed to ensure the company is talked about — and not just in the past tense.

With Alcatel-Lucent, Suri says, the company has built a networking company that is the leader in today’s LTE networks and is poised to grab a significant share of the next generation of networks, known as 5G. Just as important, Suri said the combined Nokia now can deliver not just equipment for mobile networks, but also for fixed-line.

Suri said more and more customers — companies like AT&T, Orange and Deutsche Telekom — are looking to deliver all manner of network services, and want suppliers that can do the same.

“If you are just a mobile player, you cannot fulfill that demand,” Suri said in an interview in Barcelona, ahead of the Mobile World Congress event, which officially begins on Monday. Nokia also finds itself selling gear directly to Web giants like Facebook and Google.

But Nokia isn’t just its networks business. Another unit, known as Nokia Technologies, has a threefold purpose: It is responsible for maintaining and licensing a vast patent portfolio, it licenses the Nokia brand for use in consumer products, and aims to create products of its own, such as the Ozo virtual-reality camera introduced last year.

Suri said that even though today’s Nokia is a company that largely sells equipment to businesses, it remains a brand people think of as a consumer-product maker.

“We almost owe it to ourselves to go experiment in the consumer area,” he said.

The most logical area, of course, would be phones. The deal with Microsoft prevented Nokia from using its brand on phones, but only through the end of last year. As Re/code first reported last year, Nokia has been plotting a strategy that would see the Nokia name on phones once again.

Nokia isn’t looking to rebuild the vast manufacturing and sales apparatus it sold to Microsoft. Instead, it has been seeking out a partner that would handle those aspects, while Nokia contributes design expertise, in addition to its brand.

“We don’t want to just put logos on somebody’s devices,” Suri said. “It needs to feel like Nokia, what Nokia was known for.”

Suri said he isn’t concerned that the company has gone beyond its original goal of having a partner in place by the end of last year.

“We’re not in a hurry,” he said. “There doesn’t need to be a rush.”

As for the products Nokia Technologies develops and sells, Suri said that the company is not limiting itself to the virtual-reality realm. One area where it has been working is in digital, though he said it is early days.

“We are still working on the strategy,” he said. “We are not commiting to anything this year.”

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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