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Who's Doing Best in LTE-A?

Danny Dicks
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Danny Dicks

Comparing telecom infrastructure vendors is an interesting challenge for an industry analyst. Financial analysts have it easy: Standard definitions of financial performance enable straightforward comparisons, and the direct link between financial analysts' judgment and market valuation galvanizes companies.

It's not quite so straightforward for us industry folk. One third of the task relates to selection of the right performance measures; one third relates to engaging the vendors such that there is sufficiently robust evidence available; and the rest relates to applying one's judgment.

So in the market for Long Term Evolution-Advanced (LTE-A) network infrastructure, what are the measures, how reliable and complete is the evidence, and who is doing the best?

Our measures are breadth of portfolio (vendors that can provide an end-to-end solution for LTE-A will score higher than those who focus much more); range of functionality (based on what vendors told us about the 3GPP Release 10, 11, 12 and above features in their solution or on the roadmap); uniqueness of approach (high-scoring vendors demonstrated to us aspects of their products or solutions that are different from the others in the market); customer base/market penetration (based on publicly announced contracts, and with weightings to score commercial networks and larger customers higher); and an intangible buzz factor (our judgment on the noise in the industry about a vendor's solution).

So who's doing best? Well, you'll find the answers in the report, but there are a couple of things that surprised me in gathering the evidence for the assessment:

  • One of the "big beasts" of the mobile infrastructure world -- Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia Networks and Huawei -- is ahead of the others by some margin on commercial deployments, and one currently lags behind.

  • Chinese end-to-end network equipment vendor ZTE, small cell specialist Airspan and software stack vendor Radisys have particularly strong LTE-A feature sets

  • The "buzz factor" in LTE-A is dominated by the efforts of vendors to demonstrate ever more impressive carrier aggregation combinations and the commercial services in South Korea.

The newest Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider, "LTE-A Infrastructure: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis," summarizes the drivers of LTE-A network investment, and assesses the products and solutions offered by the leading LTE infrastructure vendors. It focuses on the breadth of the vendors' portfolios; the number of Release 11 and 12 LTE-A features they have enabled and the additional, related capabilities they have developed; their success at selling their solutions; and the buzz they have succeeded in building around their approach to LTE-A. Finally, the report applies an overall ranking to the eight leading vendors and describes their LTE-A approaches and offers.

— Danny Dicks, Analyst, Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider

This report,"LTE-A Infrastructure: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis," is available as part of an annual subscription (6 issues per year) to Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/4glte.

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