ZTE wins second European LTE deal, in Portugal
With carriers looking to programmable base stations to ease LTE migration, ZTE believes it has a strong route into European 4G roll-outs
Published: 24 February, 2010
While Huawei has been creating a splash among European carriers in the past year, its compatriot and fierce rival ZTE has had less success on the infrastructure side. However, with 3G carriers looking to software programmable base stations to ease their migration to LTE, ZTE believes it has a strong route into European 4G roll-outs, and has announced two deals in two weeks.
The first was with Pannon in Hungary, part of the Telenor Group, which is already working with Huawei in Norway and has now chosen ZTE for its live network trial. It claims it is saving up to 50% by choosing Chinese vendors over its incumbent 3G suppliers Ericsson and Nokia Siemens.
Now it has followed up with a deal at Portugal's Optimus, already ZTE's closest European partner for smartphones. The carrier is to use ZTE's software defined radio technology to upgrade parts of its 2G and 3G networks and to create a migration path to LTE in a few years' time.
Initially, Optimus will replace its current mobile infrastructure in four regions of central Portugal, and if the results are good, it will expand the initiative to other areas and start to plot its LTE course. The cellco currently uses RAN equipment from Ericsson and Huawei (the latter for 3G only). The Chinese vendor said none of its kit was being ripped out, which suggests the project will mainly affect Ericsson GSM gear.
Although Optimus is hardly a tier one carrier, being the third largest cellco in a small economy, it is an important breakthrough for ZTE's SDR platform, which has mainly scored in Asia, particularly at flagship customer CSL of Hong Kong.
SDR is increasingly important as a competitive weapon for vendors, all of which have programs to help their customers implement flexible migrations to LTE, to encourage early adoption. Operators that have invested in SDR-capable base stations over the past couple of years will be able to introduce LTE overlays at lower cost and disruption than investing in entirely new equipment. Even when LTE is being implemented in different bands to 3G, as at AT&T, only radios may need to be acquired. For its 700MHz LTE build, AT&T needs new radios at each cell site, but these can draw on the baseband processing of existing base stations. AT&T is using the Ericsson RBS 6000 and Alcatel-Lucent Multi-Standard base station, both of which can allocate processing capability between various standards.
All HSPA base stations deployed by AT&T from now onwards will be able to support both 3G and LTE, although in urban areas the processing power even of newer infrastructure will be entirely used up by the expanding HSPA system, requiring separate base stations for LTE, especially when this is using 10MHz channels, as opposed to the 5MHz of HSPA (though in some cases AT&T may deploy LTE in 5MHz channels too). Alcatel-Lucent is the grandfather of software defined base stations, having started its SDR program back in the 1990s.