Vendors in Base Station Bust Up
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