AlcaLu Pitches Single-Vendor LTE
The infrastructure giant is taking this message on the road with a 53-foot LTE trailer equipped with 84 TVs to demo what next-generation networks can do, besides just make things really, really fast. Click on the photo below for a mini-slideshow:
In fact, one theme in all of Alcatel-Lucent’s demos isn't the speed, but the need for one throat to choke when deploying LTE, whether an operator is evolving from a 2G or 3G network or starting from scratch -- the route AlcaLu hopes they will take.
The other strong theme is the applications LTE will enable, both for businesses and consumers, and AlcaLu's strong position with the developer community. The Alcatel-Lucent trailer not only demos multiple applications, many of which are video-based, but shows how they can run simultaneously on LTE.
One significant challenge will be Alcatel-Lucent's ability to blend those two themes.
The end-to-end approach is something its competitors, which include all the infrastructure giants such as Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Nokia Networks , Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), can’t offer, according to Ken Wirth, AlcaLu’s president of LTE Solutions.
Yet while it may have the biggest truck, Alcatel-Lucent is certainly not the biggest or quickest player in LTE. It does, however, have two significant names on its customer roster that make it a force to be reckoned with. Both AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless are using Alcatel-Lucent for their LTE deployments, starting in the fourth quarter of this year for Verizon and next year for AT&T. (See Counting Down to LTE.)
Alcatel-Lucent is also involved in 50 LTE trials across the globe. Wirth says that around half of these operators don’t have 2G or 3G networks in place. He roughly estimates that around 50 percent are using AlcaLu’s base stations, 10 to 20 percent are using backhaul, 10 percent its advanced packet core, 10 percent IMS, and the rest using pieces from the management side of the equation. Some of the trials that started as RAN-only took on other parts as they progressed, he says.
"More customers are willing to go with a single vendor for LTE," Wirth asserts. That's because the transition to LTE is more complex than previous wireless upgrades.
Service providers need to deploy a new core IP network, in addition to new radio access gear, and make that new network work with existing 2G and 3G networks for roaming purposes, as well as support new apps and new business models that also require interfaces to existing support systems.
There are benefits in going with just one vendor to accomplish all this with the least possible cost and complexity, but on the flipside, if anything goes awry with that vendor, the service provider can be left high and dry.
Carriers base their vendor decisions on a number of factors, such as cost, but they also have to take into account whether they have legacy gear from multiple vendors or are starting from scratch as AlcaLu prefers. It could also depend on the geography, according to Current Analysis analyst Peter Jarich. Operators in developing markets like India are more prone to go with one vendor in a hosted model, because time to market is an issue and the goal is just to get up and running.
Alcatel-Lucent’s biggest advantage: developers
End-to-end is really a subjective term, Jarich notes, but AlcaLu’s success with LTE will come down to whether operators want or need every component. It may be important for the smaller players, but a lot of the larger operators are big enough to opt for best-of-breed, he says. And they have no shortage of vendors to choose from.
“It’s tricky when you pull in the routing side of things,” Jarich says. “Alcatel-Lucent is stronger on the routing side than NSN or Ericsson, but Ericsson has the Redback Networks Inc. stuff; and NSN has a partnership with Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) and Huawei; and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) have their own routers. If the difference is just app enablement, it’s a question of strategy. Is that what operators want?”
In terms of a marketing message, pitching an end-to-end solution may ultimately be a disservice to Alcatel-Lucent, Jarich adds. One of the vendor’s strongest assets is its connection to the developer community and app enablement. It acquired ProgrammableWeb last month to strengthen its play in Web application programmable interfaces and it’s working on shoring up operator support for the service. (See AlcaLu Buys Some API Smarts.)
But by pushing the end-to-end message, Jarich says AlcaLu could be taking the significant message of its app enablement strategy and making it generic.
“You can’t argue that all the competitors are focused on the developer community like Alcatel-Lucent is,” Jarich says. “They’ve made a focus that others haven’t. It’s concrete and it’s real.”
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile