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Vendors in Base Station Bust Up

Five of the major base-station vendors have today announced that they plan to work together on a common interface specification for base stations, a move that could seriously damage Nokia Corp.'s (NYSE: NOK) efforts to define a standard architecture for third-generation base stations.

The vendors -- LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY), Nortel Networks Corp., (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) -- are attempting to define what they call a common public radio interface (CPRI). This will be an open-source definition of an interface that sits between the radio and control elements of a base station. The companies hope to introduce products compatible with the specification next year.

Developing such a spec will allow equipment vendors to buy in third-party radio equipment, thereby cutting development costs and cutting the time it takes to get a product on the market, say the companies involved in the product.

Laudable aims, but flash back to February 2002 and you'll see Nokia was making very similar claims for its newly announced Open Base Station Architecture Initiative (OBSAI) (see Nokia Triggers 3G Standards Debate).

Among the other members of the OBSAI are LG Electronics Inc., NEC, Samsung Corp., and ZTE Corp.. However, many of the industry's big guns -- particularly Ericsson -- seemed leery of working in forum largely driven by Nokia.

The Swedish vendor is open about the fact that this new body is a rival to Nokia's OBSAI [ed. note: wasabi!] ambitions. "We think we have proved by the names on the press release… that we have a better solution," Ericsson press manager Mats Thorén told Unstrung, although he added that any company is welcome to join the initiative, use the interface and contribute technical suggestions.

Nortel is a little more circumspect. "We are still in discussions with Nokia," a company spokesperson says. "We haven't burnt all bridges."

Nokia had not returned our calls by press time.

Gabriel Brown, research analyst for the Unstrung Insider who is currently working on a report about the UMTS infrastructure market, thinks that the CPRI group could overshadow Nokia's efforts because it has more big-name infrastructure vendors on board. "I think this may be a body blow for Nokia's OSBAI ambitions but, ironically, it validates their initial idea for a standard interface," says Brown.

Nothing like a little infighting among vendors to promote the cause of openness in the industry, eh?

Just don't call the work of Ericsson and friends a standardization push, because its not. Alright? As Thorén points out, the vendors working on CPRI are not creating a standard but a specification [ed. note: just kicking back with a few brews and some slide rules?]. "It may become a standard in the future," he allows... eventually. — Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

bsa 12/4/2012 | 11:53:17 PM
re: Vendors in Base Station Bust Up NEC is only a supporter company in OBSAI but a founder member of CPRI.

Among the founders of CPRI perhaps only Nortel can be the one ditching it, not Mobisphere (Siemens/NEC)
IPobserver 12/4/2012 | 11:53:17 PM
re: Vendors in Base Station Bust Up From an exec at a major subsystem supplier who doesnGÇÖt want to be quoted in public:

* Ericsson has been forced into this by NokiaGÇÖs initiative

* OBSAI is gaining momentum and Ericsson got scared of being left out in the cold

* The timeline for CPRI looks optimistic (the specification is planned to be available 2003, with compatible products on the market by the end of 2004)

* OBSAI specs will be available to members any day now

* The hardware market is going this way anyway. OEMs want the cheapest components and subsystems possible; even if they come from a sweatshop in the Far-East

* Note how the two big Chinese rivals are split: ZTE with OBSAI and Huawei with CPRI

* Note how the Siemens/NEC joint venture has a foot in both camps: Siemens with CPRI and NEC with OBSAI
standardsarefun 12/4/2012 | 11:50:49 PM
re: Vendors in Base Station Bust Up Everyone,
This is crazy really. The whole point to setting internal Base station interface agreements is to open up the component market and hence let everyone benefit from a true mass market cost structure. If we now have two rival fora (and why not a third one?) we will all loose out on this. Likewise, if we have a "Nokia's friends" camps and a "Ericsson's friends" camp then the rest of us carn't play these two off against eachother.

So why don't we push for a new TSG inside 3GPP (joint with 3GPP2?).

IPobserver 12/4/2012 | 11:49:27 PM
re: Vendors in Base Station Bust Up Several people I've spoken to agree with you. It would be better to have one set of internal interfaces. Even Nokia's making nice noises: http://www.unstrung.com/docume...

But behind the scenes the battle between Ericsson and Nokia to use their buying power to control, as much as they can, what happens further down the food chain is getting very strategic.

I doubt either party would want to take this into the official standards organizations because this would open up the low cost structure to everyone.
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