WiMAX, LTE, HSDPA, EVDO Rev A and now UMB (ultra mobile broadband).

Today’s wireless operators are faced with a dizzying array of radio access technologies. With all of these technologies vying for prominence, the focus should not be on waging a religious war around air interface technology, but rather on how those elements enable operators to compete. As Mark Slater, VP of Vice President, Nokia Siemens Networks discussed with Editor Sean Buckley, the radio access technology choice should enable the operator to create “a vibrant and widespread global ecosystem to develop around” that radio access technology.

Buckley: Whether it’s WiMAX, LTE or UMB, a big topic is the various migration strategies to what some refer to as 4G wireless. What are operators looking for from the vendor community to make that transition?

Slater: The key point as we are in the stage of developing new generation of radio technologies that are out there, and hen we talk radio technology, we should not ignore core technology as well. There are various flavors of radio technology out there i.e. LTE and UMB, for example. It would be great if there were one radio standard because it would enable the scale and flow through to the operator. Nevertheless, the principles of scale and making the radio technologies perform to their physical characteristics is a key ingredient; however, operators are looking at how that whole ecosystem comes together and allows them to compete.

When we look at the way radio technologies are evolving, we look at what radio technology will be competitive from its performance characteristics, but more importantly how would it allow a vibrant and widespread global ecosystem to develop around it. This radio technology would also allow us to manufacture products, applications and software and scale to be the most competitive solution out there.

Buckley: Wireless operators are facing the challenge of expanding their footprint, capacity, while trying to keep down costs. Talk to us about how your Flexi BTS vision enables wireless operators to achieve those goals?

Slater: Now we’re dropping down to a pragmatic vision, and the Flexi base station is an excellent example of that because it has the same hardware platform for WCDMA, WiMAX and for LTE. Of course, what’s inside the boxes varies, but it’s a common platform approach that enables us to drive huge amounts of scale. The platform itself with the vision of how we need to the reduce the capex and opex profiles of our customers to enable them to pass that through the end users in terms of being able to offer more competitive services.

If you can deploy a base station that takes up a fraction of the real estate of a traditional network you’re your options of deploying that are increased dramatically. You don’t necessarily need to invest in new sites when your sites rooms are filled because we can reuse cabinets, etc; it’s a very pragmatic way of deploying a new radio network or upgrading an existing radio network. The sole purpose is to drive Capex/Opex profiles associated with running the radio network. We believe that’s absolutely mandatory to compete effectively in the year’s to come.

Buckley: While we’re on the subject of network transitions, Nokia got invited to Sprint Nextel’s WiMAX dance. What’s your take on the state of the WiMAX market?

Slater: WiMAX needed a lead operator to put weight behind it, and Sprint did that effectively. Obviously, everyone is executing against their 802.16e paths. The sales activity globally is increasing around WiMAX. If we look globally at the 2.5, 3.5 and even 2.3 GHz spectrum, we’re seeing that WiMAX is gaining more acceptance on a global basis, which is something we look toward facilitating and taking part in to achieve that scale. We’ll go through a stage of initial announcements of providers deploying WiMAX and in 2008 you’ll see the deployments come on line. That’s when we’ll see a vibrant WiMAX marketplace.