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OBSAI Revs Up

The Open Base Station Architecture Initiative (OBSAI) [ed. note: wasabi!] has kicked into life with a set of specifications aimed at reducing the cost of network hardware and the revelation it is looking to foster closer ties with its rival (see OBSAI Takes Shape).

Formed in September 2002 by that humongous Finnish troll, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), OBSAI now holds claim to over 40 members from all sectors of the base station supply chain, from vendors Samsung Corp., LG Electronics Inc., and Hyundai Networks Inc. through to RF Subsystem suppliers such as Andrew Corp. (Nasdaq: ANDW) and PowerWave Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: PWAV).

The members of OBSAI are working together to agree upon open specifications for certain parts of a base station's internal architecture and key interfaces. Because the internal workings of a base station are proprietary to each vendor, OBSAI believes that a standardized internal interface will allow competing vendors to do away with huge investments in R&D, forcing down the cost of base stations and encouraging carriers to roll out new networks (see OBSAI Gets to Work).

According to OBSAI chair and Nokia general manager Jukka Klemettilä, two of the three specifications required for component interoperability between different base stations are now finalized, with the third due for completion in October.

“We estimate that the first base stations compatible with OBSAI specifications will be available by the end of next year,” he tells Unstrung.

Today's moves give the group a leg up over the recently launched Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI) initiative, led by LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY; Tokyo: 6701), and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE).

Up until now, the existence of two groups aiming to standardize the base station industry has created confusion in the market (see Vendors in Base Station Bust Up). OBSAI’s Klemettilä is, however, hopeful that the competing bodies will find some room for mutual development.

“We are looking to find ways in which these two activities complement each other, as that would be of huge benefit to the whole industry,” he säys. “We have started discussions with CPRI members. We will see what the outcome is. OBSAI would like to see a complementary approach to this.”

Analysts certainly agree. “Without a merger -- or, at least, coordination of the two bodies -- two separate sets of internal specifications could develop, yielding less value in terms of component scale and cost reductions,” write Peter Jarich and Ken Rehbehn of Current Analysis.

“While operators may not be concerned with the specifics of these subsystem components, they would clearly benefit from one unified specification which would result in a higher degree of scale efficiencies.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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