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Nokia to share mobile network technologies with rivals

Jumping before it's pushed

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Nokia Oyj yesterday promised to "share" core mobile network technologies with its competitors in a "de facto standardization" effort that it claims is necessary to reduce network industry cost structures, and hasten the realization of next-generation mobile data services. It also unveiled its own range of "open" network modules, making Linux-based systems a part of its core infrastructure product portfolio for the first time.

According to JT Bergqvist, senior VP of the company's Nokia Networks infrastructure division, the Espoo, Finland-based company's Open IP Base Station Architecture initiative stems from the recognition that the network business has been "rather vertical", relying on a few vendors to supply complete network infrastructures. In future, he said, the potential of all IP networks in particular will only be fully met if networks become more open, allowing more suppliers to participate in them, increasing innovation and competition, while reducing costs for operators.

At first sight, the substance of Nokia's latest "de facto standardization" seems astonishingly altruistic. It will include, Bergqvist promised, providing competitors with Nokia's "core module technologies ... on an equal basis to its [Nokia's] own systems business." The point being, said Bergqvist, "to open the internal architectures for standard commercial components, thereby increasing efficiency throughout the industry."

In fact, as well as recognizing that its operator customers will roll out new networks and services faster if the equipment were cheaper, Nokia is also reading the writing on the wall for the old telecom industry structure, which is in the process of being penetrated by new supplier/buyer relationship models more akin to those in the computer industry.

In the computer industry, the days of vertically integrated suppliers were ended by the emergence of open systems, which allowed customers to mix and match hardware and software from many vendors, more or less interchangeably.

Yesterday Nokia decided to jump before it was pushed, to take a leading roll in driving a process that is likely to be inevitable anyway.

With the introduction of two new core network components, for instance, Nokia has embraced Linux for the first time in core network infrastructure products.

The Open Source Development Lab has been working on toughened Linux via its Carrier Grade Linux Working Group for some time. Nokia is the first telecom equipment manufacturer to bring this work into the commercial domain on its new FlexiServer networks services platform, and on the FlexiGateway mobile network edge routing and processing switch.

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