Nokia Siemens says small cells, optical are keys to U.S. expansion

BARCELONA, Spain--Nokia Siemens Networks wants everyone to know that the U.S. wireless market holds a cherished spot in its future business plans.

NSN long ago lost out on the initial round of LTE radio access supply contracts from the top three U.S. operators, but there is still LTE business to vie for from T-Mobile USA and even the other Tier 1 operators are going to need help with small cells, said Ricky Corker, NSN president of customer operations for North America.

"We need to be successful in North America," he said during an intimate question-and-answer session with reporters during the Mobile World Congress. "The U.S. will be a priority market."

In an effort to stem losses, NSN has been trying to divest non-core businesses, including wireline-related units, and is now focused on building mobile broadband equipment, bolstering its successful optical business, and offering customer experience management (CEM) services to operators.

NSN, said Corker, has learned that it needs to align the company's assets with local market needs, particularly in markets such as the U.S. that have huge barriers to entry. The company also needs to invest and innovate locally.

NSN did exactly those things in Asia-Pacific, where Corker was previously based, and the company won business. For example, in South Korea NSN closed contracts over the past 12 months with every major telco, selling them LTE and optical equipment.

Exemplifying its renewed focus on North America, NSN currently has three major U.S. R&D centers: Arlington Heights, Ill.; Ft. Worth/Irving, Texas; and Tempe, Ariz. All of those centers are involved in LTE, both TDD and FDD versions, and are working on software and hardware. NSN provides mobile broadband testing and development at two Smart Labs in North America, one in Irving and a new one that recently opened in Mountain View, Calif.

Corker noted NSN has recently emphasized the creation of LTE solutions for use in unique North American spectrum, such as the 1.7/2.1 GHz AWS band. "Those were on the road map but not necessarily a priority," he said.

NSN recently won LTE contracts with Canadian operators Bell and Telus. And after years of missing out on LTE radio access supply contracts with leading U.S. mobile operators, NSN has suddenly found itself nicely positioned for possible inclusion in T-Mobile USA's planned LTE upgrade. Traditionally, T-Mobile has deployed network gear from Ericsson and NSN, and the latter's Liquid Net architecture has already helped it secure 52 LTE contracts globally.

NSN still holds out hope for LTE-related deals with the top two U.S. mobile operators--Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T)--which it feels could yet benefit from its broad portfolio of small cell products.

Corker said NSN gained "some hidden gems," including femtocell, wireless router and access point technologies, when it bought the Motorola Solutions wireless networking business in April 2011. That Motorola expertise powers NSN's new Flexi Zone offering, which comprises multiple, inter-connected low-power small cells that use a common pool of resources managed flexibly by a zone controller.

In addition, NSN's vast optical portfolio enables it to provide innovative transport solutions for mobile broadband networks, said Corker.  

Another primary business focus for NSN is CEM, which aims to deliver real-time actionable analytics to mobile operators. Much of the technology for that business came from NSN's acquisition of IMS subscriber database management specialist Apertio in 2008.

As part of NSN's narrowed-down business strategy, the vendor intends to slash 17,000 jobs worldwide, or 23 percent of its workforce, by the end of 2013. "Job cuts are an unfortunate consequence of the strategy," said Corker. "What we're not going to do is reduce our R&D spend."

For more:
- see this GigaOm article

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