ABI Research has ranked Nokia Siemens Networks at the top in its macro base station vendor competitive assessment for its performance in innovation and implementation. But Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei were not far behind.
“The macro base station market is hyper competitive and we noticed a high level of innovation from all vendors, coupled with real and significant achievements as the vendors equip and modernize the world’s mobile networks as they continue to build out for coverage and transition to the latest 4G protocols and distributed architectures,” said Nick Marshall, principal analyst at ABI Research.
The subjective assessment by ABI graded the major base station manufacturers in terms of criteria under two major categories: innovation and implementation. Criteria determining innovation included R&D investment, essential intellectual property, advanced feature road map, small cell/hetnet development, and multi-protocol support. Under the category of implementation ABI looked at market share, geographical penetration, financial and organizational health, LTE RAN contracts, major customer wins and vendor portfolio.
In particular, NSN gained best-in-class scores in the essential IP, advanced features road map, and multi-protocol support categories and LTE RAN contracts.
In terms of innovation, NSN’s Smart Scheduler, which is responsible for efficient interference mitigation and QoS assurance, drew the attention of ABI. Technologies like the Smart Scheduler will give systems the ability to handle voice over LTE traffic.
“The Smart Scheduler uses fast-frequency selective (uplink and downlink) distributed scheduling for guaranteed bit rate and latency with minimum fading and maximum uplink interference mitigation,” Marshall said. “The Smart Scheduler capability enables superior network quality and a significant reduction in costs by enabling a higher number of simultaneous subscribers in a given site.”
Both Ericsson and NSN are providing base station infrastructure for T-Mobile’s LTE Advanced ready system deployment, which has been getting a lot of press for potentially being able to deliver 150 Mpbs over a 40-megahertz swath of spectrum. To get the speed and maintain the signal-to-noise ratio, the specifications for LTE-Advanced call for advanced antenna technology, while the base station must have the computing power to handle the data.
“[T-Mobile’s network] is going to be super-fast, because it bought the latest [LTE-Advanced-ready] gear from NSN with two-by-two MIMO and four-by-four MIMO [antennas]. It’s helping them achieve some pretty good performance figures,” Marshall said.
Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent Also Receive Accolades
NSN had company in ABI Research’s competitive assessment, which ranked Alcatel-Lucent as the most innovative vendor with three best–in-class scores for innovation in the areas of R&D investment and commitment, small cell and hetnet development and TCO innovation. Ericsson achieved first in the implementation category with the most LTE contracts and subscriber potential among the vendors from networks equipped by Ericsson. Huawei also ranked among the leaders.
Samsung is the rising star in base stations, according Marshall, with increasing market share and a growing number of LTE contracts with carriers, such as Sprint and MetroPCS and several in the U.K. and Ireland. Additionally, Samsung has entered the small cell arena with contracts with Sprint and KDDI in Japan.
“Samsung has a huge R&D staff. They can pull on all sorts of resources to do this,” Marshall said. “I can see them moving into position as a base station power some day.”