Ericsson, Huawei Incompatibility Threatens NB-IoT – Sources

Vendors in denial
Ericsson dismissed suggestions it is locked in an IP dispute with Huawei over NB-IoT, as well as talk of standards bifurcation. It also blamed ongoing standardization activities for the chatter about interoperability problems.

Eric Parsons, Ericsson's head of 4G and RAN mobile broadband at its business area networks division, says the 3GPP made some "corrections" to the NB-IoT standard as recently as March.

"It is very atypical of the 3GPP to introduce late-stage scenarios that lead to incompatibility," he tells Light Reading. "There might be a period where the whole ecosystem is catching up with this last round of changes in the specifications. That is perhaps the seed for what you might have heard regarding compatibility."

During a subsequent email exchange with Ericsson, Parsons said the use of the word "atypical" was "probably incorrect."

"A required non-backward-compatible change was introduced, but it was with the understanding that this was ahead of any widespread technology rollout and therefore quite OK," he said. "Of course, test activities have to be aligned as to which 3GPP release to use in this circumstance."

The 3GPP did not respond to requests for a comment on these "late-stage" changes to the NB-IoT standard.

Parsons also said in Ericsson's email that he had "no knowledge of any long-standing interoperability issue."

"We have been conducting tests in customer labs now for quite some time without any such issue emerging," he said. "Otherwise we are not aware of any issues and our customers have not raised any issues."

Huawei indicated that it was not aware of any interoperability problems with Ericsson while declining to comment on the recent changes to the NB-IoT standard.

Want to know more about 4G LTE? Check out our dedicated 4G LTE content channel here on Light Reading.

But Nick Hunn, the chief technology officer of consulting firm WiFore, has argued that interoperability problems are deep-rooted.

In a blog published in December, Hunn said the telecom industry has split into two camps on NB-IoT, with Ericsson and Nokia pursuing an approach that remains "incompatible" with that taken by Huawei and Vodafone.

According to Hunn, the approach taken by Ericsson and Nokia "is essentially a cut down, lower power variant of 4G." That taken by Huawei, he says, is more of a "clean sheet" approach that owes much to the Weightless standard developed by Neul, a UK firm that Huawei acquired in 2014. (See Huawei Spends $25M on Neul's IoT Smarts.)

Hunn describes the 3GPP's efforts to resolve differences between these approaches in its specifications as a "fudge."

"Vodafone is using Huawei's NB-IoT, which is totally different from the Nokia NB-IoT which [Finnish operator] Sonera is using," he writes. "To survive, NB-IoT needs to be a single, low cost, globally interoperable standard. In its current form, NB-IoT is dead."

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Michelle 5/12/2017 | 1:35:53 PM
Re: No surprise Point!

/i stand corrected.
Joe Stanganelli 5/4/2017 | 3:23:22 PM
Re: No surprise In a way, the naming/branding of technology stifles progress.  Just look at the history of "fauxG".  ;)
Michelle 5/1/2017 | 1:18:35 PM
Re: No surprise No? I think it's time for a change :D
Joe Stanganelli 5/1/2017 | 9:30:22 AM
Re: No surprise > If it were real technology it would have a name by now, right?

I'm not sure that's a fair standard/rubric... ;)

This is just a proprietary-vs.-proprietary you-know-what contest.  I fully expect the allegations of "vendor lock-in" to start flying any second now, if they haven't already.
Michelle 4/30/2017 | 8:25:33 PM
Re: No surprise Incompatible, eh? This makes me wonder if the whole thing isn't fantasy. If it were real technology it would have a name by now, right? 
Michelle 4/30/2017 | 8:23:55 PM
Re: No surprise I vote YAY. Who will tally the results? We can rebrand the new name by Tuesday...
Joe Stanganelli 4/30/2017 | 10:35:38 AM
Re: No surprise Given the ongoing conversation here as what to call 5G-like technology (link), maybe we should talk about what to rename this incompatible/unworkable NB-IoT tech.

How about NO-IoT?  ;)
ServiceS28721 4/27/2017 | 3:57:54 PM
Not a surprise Not a surprise from Huawei by them not meeting with standards for making competitor's life more difficult. They ave always had compatibility "issues" for interoperability with other vendors, just wanting to avoid patent fees.
DanJones 4/26/2017 | 3:00:01 PM
No surprise Given that no one in the industry can even decide what to call the tech it's not super surprising.
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