NEC Adopts SON for Its LTE

NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) has expanded its Long Term Evolution (LTE) equipment family with a self-organizing network (SON) system from Actix Ltd.

SON systems, which many operators see as a key requirement for next-generation, mobile, broadband networks, are network management automation tools for network planning, deployment, and optimization, as well as energy consumption reduction. As operators calculate the business case for deploying LTE, SONs are critical for keeping operating costs to a minimum. (See Operators Push for LTE Automation.)

"Operators want everything -- self-healing, self-optimizing, self-planning -- to help them bring the cost of operating the network down," says Shahram Niri, director of global LTE/SAE strategy at NEC Europe. "Any automation in the processes of planning, configuration, optimization, and healing is most welcome."

NEC has high hopes for LTE and wants to use the headstart it has in its home market of Japan to take on the likes of Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Nokia Networks , and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) in international markets. The addition of SON capabilities should certainly help those LTE ambitions. (See LTE Base Station Challengers and NEC's LTE Launch Pad.)

In Japan, the vendor has racked up early LTE experience with NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) and KDDI Corp. , which will be among the world's first operators to launch proto-4G networks. For DoCoMo, which aims to launch its LTE network in December this year, NEC supplies the radio access, core network, devices, and backhaul transport equipment. For KDDI, which has a 2012 launch target, NEC supplies the base stations, along with Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT). (See KDDI Picks Challengers for LTE Deployment and DoCoMo Backhauls With NEC.)

Since those early LTE wins on its home turf, the vendor has already made headway with LTE trials outside Japan. Both Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY) chose NEC as one of six vendors to participate in LTE trials, for example. (See Telefónica Kicks Off LTE Trials and APAC Operators Commit to LTE.)

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this month, where SON is set to be one of the hot LTE-related topics, NEC will have an update on its LTE device development. The vendor will show off an LTE device concept and stage a service demonstration using the device it's supplying to DoCoMo. (See LTE Device Mock-Up at MWC.)

For Actix, specialists in radio network status management and optimization, the deal with NEC is the company's first contract with a large infrastructure supplier. Actix also claims that the multiyear contract with NEC is the largest to date in the LTE SON arena. (See Actix Touts 4G Planning Tool .)

NEC will use Actix's centralized SON system (C-SON), which does LTE self-plannng, self-optimization, and self-healing of the proto-4G radio access network. The system tackles wide area performance optimization, reactions to network disruption, and energy saving. The vendors say the system will be deployed by a Tier 1 operator early this year but have declined to identify the operator.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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