Ericsson and NSN both made recent small cell announcements, hoping to attract the interest of operators working out their strategies, but also to remind each other, "Whatever you can do, I can do better."
Nokia Networks announced its new 4G LTE small cell on Tuesday, claiming be the smallest fully functional small cell that mimics a macrocell. But Current Analysis analyst Ed Gubbins points out that it, the Flexi Zone LTE microcell, and picocell base stations are the same ones it announced in February at Mobile World Congress. NSN isn't unveiling a new product, but rather touting feature and capacity parity with the macrocell thanks to a system-on-a-chip, Gubbins says. (See NSN Unveils New 4G Small Cell.)
Wonder why it's reintroducing the market to the small cell now? Earlier this month chief rival Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) introduced its new small cell architecture, which some also argued was a repackaging of its existing distributed antenna systems (DAS) radio head. Ericsson is focusing indoors, while NSN is looking outdoors, but both are competing on their claims of macro feature parity. (See Ericsson Boasts Small Cell Breakthrough and Ericsson's Radio Dot Receives Mixed Reception.)
"Ericsson took a very different approach to achieving macrocell feature parity in the small cell; they’re using a macrocell baseband unit," Gubbins notes. "NSN, in contrast, is promising feature parity in a standalone small cell. NSN can say Ericsson is validating the importance of feature parity, but couldn’t get it done in a standalone small cell, whereas NSN can."
Of course, they aren't the only two companies embroiled in small cell smack talk. Scrappy smaller vendor SpiderCloud Wireless has been poking (what it says are) holes in their plans every step of the way. (See SpiderCloud: Cisco 'Naïve' on Small Cells.)
It's still early days for the small cell market. In fact, NSN didn't even commit to being in trials yet, although Ericsson has AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless already singing its praises. As the vendors flesh out their strategies more, operators will get more confidence in deploying thousands of the tiny base stations -- most importantly, gaining confidence that it'll be worth the investment. A little posturing in the industry is good right now, but action will soon be better.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading