CTIA Scorecard: Infrastructure Vendors

Whose profile is rising: Ericsson. Ericsson may be the world's largest infrastructure vendor, but its presence in the U.S. market has been stymied by the fact that it never could crack the CDMA market here. But that all changed in February, when CDMA operator Verizon Wireless announced Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent were its vendors of choice for its rollout of LTE next year. Ericsson was able to capitalize on Nortel Networks' troubles (the vendor is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy) and Ericsson is now using its newfound momentum to go after a host of other CDMA operators moving to LTE. According to Arun Bhikshesvaran, senior vice president of Multimedia and Infrastructure Solutions with Ericsson, the Verizon deal was "a fantastic reference that gives us a lot of credibility."

However, not every operator is pouncing on the LTE opportunity. And while Ericsson was one of the first to tout the benefits of LTE, it has also been pushing enhancements on HSPA+. The vendor said it continues to increase the data speeds of HSPA with what it called the world's first demonstration of HSPA multi-carrier MIMO technology that will provide peak downlink data rates of 56 Mbps. Current generations of HSPA support peak data rates of about 21 Mbps. The vendor's booth was packed last week.

Whose profile is falling: Nortel. FierceWireless may have been one of the only members of the press to meet with Nortel last week. Bruce Gustafson, vice president of Carrier Networks Strategic Marketing at Nortel, sums up the vendor's situation like this: "It's hard for us to win a multi-year LTE deal until the bankruptcy is cleared up."

"If we have to take steps to make sure that we're over-rotating to support existing customers rather than bringing in new business, so be it," Gustafson said.

That means Nortel, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, may see a much lower profile.

Although the vendor is winning recurring business, operators may take Verizon's lead and tell Nortel they aren't prepared to put a big next-generation contract in Nortel's hands until its future is secure. Moreover, Nortel has to entertain bids, under bankruptcy regulations, to sell off its various businesses if the bids are higher than what that particular business can generate if it remains part of Nortel. Nortel is going to have to come up with some creative ways to get its LTE product out there, which may mean finding a partner that can give operators piece of mind. The vendor, strong in the CDMA market, does have tremendous value as CDMA operators work out the details of migrating to LTE. Despite such travails, Nortel appeared to have strong booth traffic.

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