Huawei powers ahead in LTE, with north America in its sights
Published: 12 August, 2009
Huawei looks increasingly hard to beat, as it scores points in all kinds of wireless infrastructure markets. It has won an important US foothold with its Clearwire deal and has added to its growing list of LTE trial sites with a Vodafone agreement in Germany.
Although LTE is in its earliest stages, Huawei and Ericsson are putting clear water between themselves and their rivals, to a greater extent than any vendor managed in the trial phases of the 3G technologies. They top the list of European and Chinese LTE tests, though Motorola is also working on China Mobile's TD-LTE project.
Huawei's latest European trial, adding to projects at TeliaSonera and Telenor, is with Vodafone Germany, which is to test LTE in the digital dividend band (790-862MHz) this summer using Huawei kit. The tests will focus on assessing rural and urban coverage requirements, and compatibility with technologies such as digital TV and digital Radio. "By cooperating with local telecoms authorities, utilising the rich LTE experiences from Vodafone Germany and Huawei, we are confident that the test will be carried out successfully," Hartmut Kremling, CTO of Vodafone Germany, said in a statement. The cellco has already teamed with German public broadcaster WDR and the federal government of North Rhine-Westphalia to test LTE services in rural areas in the region using digital dividend spectrum. German rival E-Plus also has a pilot, working with Ericsson, in the same band, in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
It can only be a matter of time before Huawei achieves its next key target, a tier one US carrier deal. Although it missed out on the world's first commercial LTE award, at Verizon Wireless, which went to Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent, its price competitiveness - and the problems besetting so many other vendors - should net a US deal in time. It is already signed up for 3G at cableco Cox. One of the most insightful bloggers, Om Malik, writes on GigaOm: "With Nortel and Alcatel-Lucent on the ropes, the Chinese company smells blood in the north American market. It recently opened an LTE lab in Plano, Texas .... and it's in the running to become a supplier to AT&T for its 4G network" (though that deal is unlikely to materialize for at least another year).
Rivals like Nokia Siemens are increasingly increasing their reliance on services as they are pursued by Huawei in the equipment field, and so far the Chinese giant has made less impact in this higher value market. However, it is gaining greater presence in core networks. Market researchers at Infonetics, studying uptake of IMS, say: "On the vendor front, Ericsson continues to be the leading IMS vendor, but Huawei has made the most progress in terms of deployments and vendor perceptions. Huawei poses a credible and serious threat to Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, and Nokia Siemens based on the number of providers with Huawei IMS products under evaluation, and overall perception of Huawei across a broad set of criteria."