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Motorola Enlists Starent for 4G Push

Now the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) market is really starting to warm up...

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has enlisted the help of packet core specialist Starent Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: STAR) to provide mobile operators with a complete technology package for 4G networks based on LTE standards.

The two companies announced today that Motorola, which is developing its own LTE radio access equipment, is integrating Starent's evolved packet core technology, based on the preliminary System Architecture Evolution (SAE) standard specifications, into its LTE ecosystem. (See Moto Touts '09 Growth Categories , Moto Demos LTE at 700 MHz, Moto Supports WiMax, LTE, Moto Joins LTE/SAE, and 3GPP Pins Down LTE Specs.)

The move comes as the mobile sector's major equipment providers ramp up their marketing efforts in a bid to present the most attractive package for LTE, the technology that is expected to dominate the global 4G network landscape. (See Operators Face LTE Deployment Dilemma, Canadians Leap to LTE, DoCoMo Takes LTE to 250 Mbit/s, and NSN, Fujitsu Team for DoCoMo LTE.)

Two of Motorola's chief rivals, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , recently engineered a public relations coup by announcing their involvement in arguably the world's first LTE rollouts, in Norway and Sweden. (See TeliaSonera: We'll Do 4G in 2010.)

Ericsson has also started trying to undermine its rivals with caustic comments as the LTE posturing begins. (See Kicking Moto While It's Down.)

Other vendors looking to position themselves as major LTE prospects include Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY), NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), Nokia Networks , and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763).

Adding Starent to the mix
While other vendors are developing their own SAE platforms -- which will act as multifunctional, multimedia gateways in LTE networks -- Motorola has chosen to team up with Starent, indisputably the market's leading independent packet core technology vendor. "They've decided not to put their R&D into the core, and are relying on ours," Starent's VP of global marketing, Thierry Maupilé, tells Light Reading.

"This is good timing," he adds. "There's lots of LTE activity -- the carriers are getting ready to evaluate."

And Motorola is keen to push Starent's pedigree. "By teaming with Starent, Motorola is working with industry experts in the mobile operators’ multimedia core networks,” stated Moto's VP of Wireless Broadband Access Technologies, Darren McQueen, in the press release announcing the partnership.

For Starent, which has been successful in selling its packet core technology to CDMA network operators, the relationship gives it global reach and an opportunity to further target operators that are looking to migrate from WCDMA and HSPA (high-speed packet access) to LTE. "Motorola has a good pedigree and has a 2G and 3G installed base – they're very strong in some markets and we want to take advantage of that," notes Maupilé (a former Motorola executive in Europe). (See FCC to Open Radio Spectrum, Moto Wins China Telecom Deal, Moto Wins GSM Deal, Moto Wins GSM Deal, and Motorola Supplies BSNL.)

Starent has already had some success in the WCDMA/HSPA market with operators such as Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), with a group-wide relationship, and Bouygues Telecom in France. (See Bouygues Deploys Starent, Starent's Double Whammy, and Starent Wins VOD Deal.)

"HSPA needs a very sophisticated network... [and the] packet core will be even more important in the LTE world," states Maupilé. "It's not just an issue of throughput and subscribers – it's all the intelligence layers. Packet inspection, subscriber management, policy control – all of these things are becoming very important to operators as their business models change." (See 4G Drives All-IP Mobile Networks.)

Analyst: Verizon a key target
While the new relationship clearly provides Starent with enhanced sales opportunities, especially in markets such as China and India, Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan believes Motorola's main aim is to give itself the best possible chance of landing some of the LTE action at Verizon Wireless .

The U.S. carrier, which has Starent deployed in its CDMA network, has committed to LTE as its next-generation network technology and is working closely with minority stakeholder Vodafone (which is already a Starent fan, of course) on its strategy. (See AT&T, Verizon Plot Faster Futures, AT&T & Verizon to Use 700 MHz for 4G , and Verizon Goes LTE.)

“This is largely about Motorola positioning itself for the Verizon Wireless LTE contract," says Donegan. "Starent is the incumbent 3G packet core vendor in the Verizon Wireless account and is very well positioned for the upgrade to LTE."

And Donegan believes other equipment giants will look to team up with Starent for the same reason. "Other LTE RAN [radio access network] vendors will likely partner with Starent as well, initially for the Verizon Wireless opportunity, but also for the wider global 3G and 4G market. Such partnerships may take the form of an OEM agreement, like Motorola’s, a commitment to an interoperability program, or even an outright acquisition of Starent,” states the Heavy Reading analyst.

Donegan has previously noted that Alcatel-Lucent would be wise to approach Starent for some sort of relationship, but Maupilé says he can't comment on such suggestions, though he does note that the partnership with Motorola is not exclusive. (See Verwaayen: Nearly All Right on LTE.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

spc_rayella 12/5/2012 | 4:13:19 PM
re: Motorola Enlists Starent for 4G Push OK, so Starent has a deal with Moto... but is there another vendor that could benefit itself and Starent more by striking some sort of deal with the packet core specialist?

Or even buying it outright?

Starent's share price is up 2.2% percent today to $13.04, giving it a market cap of about $915 million.

Ray
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