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Huawei Blazing LTE Trail

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan
6/30/2009

Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. has been beefing up its Long Term Evolution (LTE) credentials lately with trials in Europe and China. (See Huawei Bags Another Euro LTE Gig.)

Now, with a new LTE R&D lab in Tokyo, the vendor looks set to muscle in on the next-generation mobile broadband action in Japan, too. (See Huawei Opens LTE Lab in Tokyo.)

LTE is set to boom in Japan as NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), for one, prepares to spend up to $4 billion on the next-generation mobile technology during the next five years. KDDI Corp. is also planning an LTE rollout there. (See DoCoMo Shells Out on LTE, DoCoMo LTE Devices in 2010, and KDDI Goes LTE.)

Huawei says the new LTE lab in Tokyo will allow its R&D team to work with local operators to test LTE systems "before delivery," according to the vendor's press release. Previously, such a test facility for Huawei was only available in China.

The lab is set up to handle a downlink rate of 140 Mbit/s through a single remote radio unit over a 20 MHz frequency channel. And the vendor says it will be able to develop Evolved Packet Core (EPC, the LTE core network) products, such as a unified service node and unified gateway, using the lab's facilities.

Huawei's LTE radio access is based on its fourth-generation DBS3900 base station platform, which is the same platform it uses for GSM, UMTS (3G), CDMA, and WiMax base stations. The vendor claims that, as of June 2009, it has shipped more than 1.5 million transceivers for its fourth-gen base stations, which at this stage have been mostly for 2G and 3G networks.

The move follows a swath of trial activity Huawei has cut across Europe, as well as a commercial contract win with Telia Company for LTE radio access and EPC gear. (See TeliaSonera: We'll Do 4G in 2010.)

Huawei has two LTE gigs in Oslo, Norway -- the commercial deal with TeliaSonera and a trial with Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN). (See Huawei Bags Another Euro LTE Gig, Telenor to Test Huawei LTE, TeliaSonera Makes LTE Connection, and 'Live' LTE Demo in Norway.)

In addition, T-Mobile Austria is showcasing LTE capabilities in one of its retail stores in Vienna using equipment from the Chinese vendor.

Huawei has also been involved in the joint LTE trial initiative set up by Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), Verizon Wireless , and China Mobile Communications Corp. That initiative led to Verizon selecting Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) for its LTE radio access gear. (See MWC 2009: Verizon Picks LTE Vendors, Huawei Joins Vodafone LTE Trial, V'fone Germany to Test LTE for Rural Broadband, and China Mobile Joins LTE Threesome.)

And Huawei told Light Reading recently it expects to be in LTE trials with U.K. operators before the end of 2009. (See Huawei Eyes UK LTE Trials.)

Huawei is also understood to be among the many players involved in China Mobile's TD-LTE push in China. (See China Mobile Fast-Tracks TD-LTE and China Mobile Preps LTE Network.)

But how much of all of this early trial activity will translate into revenue-generating commercial deployments? And if Huawei is blazing such an LTE trail, who's eating its dust? (See Huawei Overtakes AlcaLu – Again! and NSN Picks at Nortel's Mobile Bones .)

While it's too early to do anything other than speculate about market traction, it's clear the rivalry among the giant wireless infrastructure rivals is intense, with each striving to position itself as an early market mover. (See Who Makes What: LTE Equipment and LTE Base Station Challengers.)

AlcaLu and Ericsson have bagged the LTE elephant with their contracts at Verizon Wireless, while the Swedish giant also has commercial contracts with NTT DoCoMo for LTE radio access and TeliaSonera for both radio access and EPC. (See DoCoMo Picks Ericsson LTE.)

Nokia Networks has also won LTE business at DoCoMo for radio access and EPC gear, in partnerships with Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY) and Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), respectively, and looks set to add to its LTE portfolio and boost its CDMA-to-LTE migration potential with the acquisition of some Nortel Networks Ltd. assets. (See NSN, Fujitsu Team for DoCoMo LTE, DoCoMo Does LTE With NSN, NSN Picks at Nortel's Mobile Bones , and Will Others Bid for Nortel's Wireless Assets? )

Among those playing early catchup are ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), though it has some LTE field trials upcoming and a good chance of business in China, and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), which has at least forged a partnership with packet core technology specialist Starent Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: STAR) so that it can offer carriers an access and core technology package. (See China Mobile Fast-Tracks TD-LTE , ZTE Pumps Its LTE Credentials, ZTE Secures $15B, Highlights R&D, Moto Launches SON for LTE, Moto Spotlights LTE eNodeB , MWC 2009: Starent Dines on LTE, and Motorola Enlists Starent for 4G Push.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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