Softbank plays the field with LTE

Daryl Schoolar/Ovum
OvumMultivendor network build strategies allow mobile operators to play one vendor off the other, creating competition that should help drive down network-build costs.
 
Softbank in Japan provides a possible example of this. As of April, four different vendors – Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia Siemens Networks, and ZTE – have announced LTE base station wins with the operator.
 
Softbank, to no surprise, hasn’t come out and said that cost was a motivator in working with four different vendors, but it is hard to believe it didn’t play a factor. It also isn’t hard to see other mobile operators doing the same, especially as LTE is built to a common standard, which allows for mixing and matching of different vendors.
 
This ability to source multiple base station vendors will create even more pressure on infrastructure companies in an already competitive market. Maintaining market share and profit margins won’t be easy.
 
Multivendor strategy makes RAN market more competitive
 
The week of April 15th saw two LTE deployment announcements regarding Softbank of Japan. The first was from Nokia Siemens Networks on April 16. Ericsson announced its own LTE win at Softbank the following day. Both wins involved building an FDD LTE network in the 900MHz spectrum band.
 
Prior to those two announcements, September of 2011 saw both Huawei and ZTE announce TD-LTE wins with Softbank. No doubt one of Softbank’s motivators behind having so many RAN vendors is cost. By having four different base station vendors Softbank can keep capex down through competition.
 
While four RAN vendors might be more than most operators want to deal with, it serves as a reminder of how hard RAN vendors will have to fight to maintain market share.
 

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