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NSN Tops in ‘Hyper Competitive’ Macro Base Station Space –– ABI Research

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.”

Wi-Fi Catches Fire

During 2012, Wi-Fi moved from being a stop-gap data offload for maxed out cellular networks, at best a value add, to a viable neutral host option with a workable business model for carriers. Major cities, such as Chicago, took a renewed interest in Wi-Fi as an engine for economic growth. Even the NFL woke up and wondered by each of its stadiums did not have Wi-Fi.

An important roaming standard, PassPoint, was established by the Wi-Fi Alliance in June 2012, which allows wireless devices to automatically discover and connect to Wi-Fi networks using Passpoint-certified access points, thus eliminating service set identification limitations. Also, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and the Small Cell Forum began working on protocols to integrate Wi-Fi and small cells to improve the user experience, increase network capacity and employ advanced traffic management techniques. Additionally, look for the 802.11ac standard to improve throughput speeds in the future.

2012 was the year Wi-Fi was brought into the wireless fold. Ericsson, for example, launched a stadium-optimized Wi-Fi solution, which consists of two products  the AP 5114 — Wi-Fi access point and the WIC 8000 Wi-Fi controller — which work together to create a Wi-Fi network that is integrated with the mobile network – in keeping with Ericsson’s approach to heterogeneous networks.

Here are some of the key stories that illustrate the path of Wi-Fi in the last year.

TowerStream Welcomes Carriers onto its Wi-Fi Network

TowerStream’s integration with two major wireless carriers has been completed and it expects to see them go live on its Wi-Fi network in the first quarter next year, Jeff Thompson, president, CEO and director of the company, told analysts on the third quarter earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. MORE

NFL Attempts to Tack Wi-Fi at Stadiums

Wi-Fi has become a priority for the NFL, which has set a goal of having deployments at all of its stadiums. Bank of America Stadium, home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., is the latest and fifth NFL stadium to receive Wi-Fi, is equipped with more than 460 AT&T Wi-Fi access points.In addition to the Panthers’ stadium, the league is keeping an eye on Wi-Fi systems in MetLife Stadium used by the N.Y. Giants and N.Y. Jets, the New England Patriot’s Gillette Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Superdome used by the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. MORE

Cities Take Different Approaches to Wi-Fi

The city of Chicago is planning to use wired and wireless broadband as part of its plan to lure the next-generation companies and start-ups to open shop in the Windy City, dubbed Chicago Broadband Challenge.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel said his administration will bridge the digital divide by expanding access to high-speed Internet services to underserved and disadvantaged neighborhoods, as well as increasing Internet access and speeds at institutions like schools, libraries, public safety agencies and parks. MORE

Wi-Fi Improves Small Cell Business Model — Report

A new report shows that the combination of cellular and Wi-Fi greatly improves the business case for LTE and 3G small cells. When small cells are combined with Wi-Fi, it becomes a powerful tool for mobile operators to increase data capacity and reduce wireless data costs, according to a report from Senza Fili Consulting. The report, “The Economics of Small Cells and Wi-Fi Offload,” explores the business model for the coexistence of small cells and Wi-Fi within the same network and identifies strategies that enable mobile operators to optimize their networks and spectrum resources and to minimize per-bit costs. MORE

 Industry Groups Look to Facilitate Wi-Fi/Small Cell Integration

With carriers increasingly using unlicensed spectrum, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and the Small Cell Forum have decided to work together to integrate Wi-Fi and small cells to improve the user experience, increase network capacity and employ advanced traffic management techniques, according to a joint announcement made at the Wi-Fi Global Congress in San Francisco.

Gordon Mansfield, the Small Cell Forum’s chairman said in a press release. “Both [cellular and Wi-FI] technologies are crucial for supporting the never ending growth in data traffic. In the long term, each technology alone cannot meet this challenge – success can only be achieved by aligning the two.”

The two organizations will look at how small cells will impact efforts to simplify Next Generation Hotspot access, and optimizing the user experience and operator deployment strategies for Wi-Fi/small cell hotspots. MORE