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Small cells

Nokia Buys SAC for Better Indoor Wireless in the US

Nokia is looking to beef up its infrastructure play in the US with the acquisition of Schaumburg, Ill.-based indoor wireless specialist SAC Wireless, announced on Wednesday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) said in a statement that it expects it to close in the third quarter of 2014. The newly handset-free infrastructure vendor is hoping to use SAC's infrastructure expertise to strengthen its presence in the North American RAN market. (See Nokia CEO Must Channel Fighting Spirit.)

SAC designs, installs and maintains indoor and outdoor distributed antenna systems (DAS) for better wireless coverage in stadiums, hospitals, government facilities, and enterprises. The company claims all the major US wireless operators among its customers. (See Must Haves for the Big Game? DAS & WiFi.)

Nokia already has a relationship with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) here, but like competitor Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), wants to get in closer with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless . Current Analysis analyst Ed Gubbins says the SAC acquisition should help boost Nokia's presence in North America and offer a way to deepen their relationship with the Tier 1s despite not having LTE basestation contracts with AT&T or Verizon. (See AT&T, Verizon Mulling Managed Services With Ericsson and Sprint Sparks Up Vendors for Faster 4G LTE.)

The deal helps Nokia's US presence in mobile broadband infrastructure, Gubbins says, but, more specifically, it boosts its capabilities in indoor enterprise network deployment services. The analyst says this is "highly relevant to the small-cell opportunity that's ramping up now and relevant to AT&T and Verizon in particular, which are both rolling out small cells." (See NSN to Take Its Flexi Zone to Work and AT&T Gets 'Opportunistic' With 4G Small Cells.)

Like Nokia's recent Mesaplexx buy, both purchased with fresh cash from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), the SAC acquisition was all about Nokia's existing core business, not extending its capabilities, something Ricky Corker, executive vice president of North America for Nokia Networks, acknowledged in announcing the acquisition. (See Nokia Buys RF Smarts to Shrink Basestations and Microsoft Officially Closes Nokia Buy.)

"With SAC Wireless' capabilities complementing our own in-house expertise, we are well positioned to bring enhanced quality and increased end-to-end delivery efficiency to our customers," he writes in the release. "No other infrastructure provider is offering this level of proven services."

This is far from the only acquisition announced in July, just two days in. Interestingly, CommScope Inc. is also looking to beef up its indoor enterprise play and just yesterday announced the acquisition of two business units from a small UK-based provider of small cell services, Alifabs Group. (See CommScope Acquires UK Wireless Specialist, Spirent Spends $25M on Radvision VoLTE Unit, Google Adds Songza to Its M&A Playlist, and EZchip Strikes $130M Deal to Buy Tilera.)

The M&A flurry is in large part a response to the complexities around indoor deployments -- acquiring sites and permits, backhauling small cells, mitigating interference, and business models -- are all challenges network operators are working through now. (See Indoor Market Driving LTE Small Cell Push.)

Nokia says SAC's 450 employees and its expertise in site development, "self-perform" implementation of indoor and outdoor small cells and DAS, and program management will complement its in-house capabilities to implement these typically sub-contracted services.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

danielcawrey 7/5/2014 | 12:20:57 PM
Re: Nokia's NICE! Seems like indoor wireless is a tough proposition. I can see how places like malls might not be a problem because there is likely one owner, but what about office buildings/complexes? Also, some may be concerned about using these indoor signals because of privacy reasons. 

Just a few things to think about...
sarahthomas1011 7/3/2014 | 9:36:26 AM
Nokia's NICE! Nokia has made another acquisition to bolster its infrastructure business today. http://www.lightreading.com/spit-(service-provider-it)/oss/eurobites-nokia-buys-3d-network-planning-tool/d/d-id/709733?  It's burning through Microsoft's cash pretty fast! 
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