Finding MIMO

Another day, another technology with lots of potential for Nortel. Today, it’s multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology. Nortel believes it has the ability to double the number of subscribers that a cell site can support. Nortel is confident MIMO “creates a technological disruption that offers revolutionary improvement in wireless network capacity and provides a clear path to 4G Mobile Broadband” (that’s according to John Hoadley, Nortel’s chief technology officer, Mobility and Converged Core Networks. Source: iTWire)


4 Responses to “Finding MIMO”

  1. Ross Says:

    … Nice title!

    I wouldn’t however, get too excited over Nortel’s opportunity to exploit this technology for a leadership advantage. They were innovating with this technology several years ago, and likely had a leadership advantage at that time. At this point in time MIMO is pretty well baked into WiMAX and UMTS LTE, so I would expect the technology to be well disseminated with all the big guys actively investing in it. I confess that I don’t have a good knowledge of Nortel’s patents in this regard, and if the company was very clever about structuring those patents and some of the standards submissions, they may be sitting on a valuable asset. But, I would be very surprised if they are able to leverage this IP in any significant way. All the standards committees have been VERY careful to avoid vendor locks on portions of the standard, given past experience with, and resentment over Qualcomm’s patent practices.

    Furthermore, companies like TenXC in Ottawa, have been marketing a subset of this type of technology (closer to smart antenna technology than MIMO) to operators for over two years. There is no substitute to hard experience for developing an appreciation of the technical challenges and real business opportunities.

    Order of magnitude capacity improvements does have the potential to significantly change the industry, but these changes do not come from any proprietary technology leadership, but rather a new standard that still requires ongoing standards efforts, planning and extended deployment periods. This is UMTS all over again! I don’t see any vendor significantly altering its competitive position in this context based on superior technology. Again, it is going to be all about superior execution, and Nortel has some disadvantages in this regard.

  2. Observer Says:

    From a layman’s perspective, they say to be leary of companies announcing breakthroughs, let alone with Nortel’s history.
    Never mind the hoopla and hype, show us the money, show us an order, any order. Sprint went with Samsung and Motorola so far.

    Albeit seemingly poised to spin the roulette wheel yet again with MIMO with their past 7 years in this hobby R&D, this is by far from the silver bullet/magic fix with so many others jumping on the bandwagon.

    Even if they really did have an edge here, they still have to sell it which is by far a more pressing and critical issue here.

    Look at the trend so far in their forever, in the future, aspirations (now 4G/WiMax/WiFi/IPTV/Voice etc.) They seem to be plagued, slow to take off, or cancelled (like Neptune) or winning no substantial returns / order(s).

    Their last largest order was BSNL which lost hundreds of millions. BT used anyone but them, why should they be suprised Sprint went with Motorola and Samsung. Heck, even Sprint Canada in their very own backyard went with Lucent recently! BMO, again in their very own backyard, ripped out all of NT’s gear to replace it with Cisco’s. Nortel has problems with not only with costs but with sales too selling assets to make gravey revenues and feed their insatiable gambling white elephant. Sell or perish will be the name of the game as competition heats up, even if they do have an edge we can make sense of.

    This time others lead again like Samsung while competition heats up again. They better move fast, if only they could sell anything as they have as hard a time as taming costs.

    “Nortel definitely competed for the Sprint contract, but failed to make the list of initial vendors—which MacKinnon said came as a surprise.” (Sprint used Samsung and Motorola so far even though Nortel historically had a good working relationship with Sprint)

    Samsung won a contract without any existing presence in Sprint’s network

    What Nortel needs now is to turn those purported efficiencies and technical innovations into a contract win.“No one should be so naïve to think products alone make deals,” Jarich said. “Sales channels are very important in this industry.”

    Lucent Technologies may have no WiMAX product, but it certainly has a healthy relationship with Sprint as its primary CDMA provider. If the Lucent and Alcatel’s merger goes fluidly with no global integration problems, it might open the way for Alcatel’s own WiMAX platform, Jarich said.

    Every vendor will make a different claim of what a particular technology is capable and which is superior, but on a basic level, both beamforming and MIMO are both multiple antenna technologies that differ mainly in how they use those antennas to create a connection to the end device.

    MIMO, however, doesn’t use its multiple antennas to create a single focused beam, but rather multiple parallel beams,

    While it’s true MIMO is optimized for dense urban environments with strong signals and beamforming ideal for more spread-out deployments with weaker signal strength, it doesn’t mean MIMO is the superior antenna architecture, said Lars Johnsson, vice president of business development for WiMAX CPE-maker Beceem and a co-founder of Flarion Technologies. They are merely suited for different applications of WiMAX, he said by no means are the mutually exclusive.

    Choosing to focus solely on MIMO gives Nortel a clear technology path that it can point to while other vendors waver between different solutions or create multiple products

    While Nortel is clearly in the MIMO camp, Jarich said, it is sticking by the technology exclusively and not hedging its bets with a separate or combined beamforming platform.

    “MIMO is not the answer to everything, but neither is beam forming,” Johnsson said. “Vendors that focus on one at the exclusion of the other may be swimming upstream when it comes to optimal system performance.”

    That’s the problem with any new technology,” Jarich said. “You get all of these little technical nips. The result is you get conflicting camps, all saying different things. After a while the customer just gives up.”

    If MIMO is Nortel’s ace in the hole, it has to play that card soon. Other vendors are by no means ignoring the technology. Motorola has been demonstrating its MIMO system, called Diversity, at trade shows. Alcatel said it will soon be shipping its software defined radio (SDR) base station, which will support MIMO with a software upgrade. Several other WiMAX vendors said they are targeting the WiMAX Forum second phase of certification—which will includes the MIMO profile—next summer for the release of their MIMO products.

  3. Not Observer Says:

    Why did you omit the following statement from the article you pasted (and obviously altered)?

    “Sprint confirmed that it will require fully-supported MIMO deployment for its urban ‘4G’ footprint, which is clearly a checkmark in Nortel’s favor, but what may be Nortel’s biggest advantage in securing Sprint’s favor is its long-standing CDMA relationship with the carrier, Current Analysis’s Jarich said.”

  4. Observer Says:

    The article was too long to include in full. I left a specific link to all its detail for all to read for themselves.

    I presented excerpts that mirrored Ross’ comments.

    As for your “in Nortel’s favor”, bear in mind they were already “surprised”/disspointed with Sprint’s decision(s) as I have shown:

    “Nortel definitely competed for the Sprint contract, but failed to make the list of initial vendors—which MacKinnon said came as a surprise.”

    Suprise by definition is unexpected.

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