SingTel launches latest LTE beauty contest

While LTE vendors are still slugging it out for Vodafone (NYSE:VOD) and China Mobile’s (NYSE:CHL) 4G business, a new large-scale network competition has emerged. SingTel today became the latest multinational operator to dangle a big fat LTE contract in front of equipment vendors, announcing plans for a LTE roll outspanning Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Like Vodafone, China Mobile and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ, NYSE:VOD), SingTel is conducting its search in the open pitting six vendors against one another for what will likely be two, maybe three, contracts. While VZW and Vodafone selected primarily European and North American vendors for their trials, SingTel’s menu is Asian-European fusion: Huawei, ZTE and NEC are going up against Nokia-Siemens Networks (NYSE:NOK, NYSE:SI) andVZW-contract-winners Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC).

Of those six, ALU, Ericsson and Huawei definitely have momentum on their side. Huawei managed a coup in Scandinavia, pulling Telenor’s LTE contract inNorwayout from under NSN and Ericsson. It has also shared TeliaSonera’s contractto build4G networks inOslo and Stockholmwith Ericsson. Ericsson may have lost a contract in its backyard, but it’s making up for it in the US. Not only did it land the VZW deal, but also the MetroPCS contract. Alcatel-Lucent’s sole commercial LTE deal is with VZW, but it may have a leg up in the China Mobile competition. The world’s largest operator selected ALU and Huawei to build trial networks at the World Expo in Shanghai next year, where attendees will be able to access the mobile broadband network through LTE modems.

NSN has been circling on the fringes. While it hasn’t been able to land any 4G radio access contracts, its gotten other bits of the network. It won, along withALU,the IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) component for Verizon’s network, and it is building several HSPA networks that could turn into LTE contracts in the future. Bell Mobility, Telus and Telenor Denmark are building 3G networks using NSN’s Flexi architecture which can support LTE as an upgrade.

Starent Networks (NYSE:STAR) doesn’t do radio, but it’s definitely become a star player in the LTE space, selling its packet core platform to VZW and Telenor in Norway. Today Telenor also named Starent as the packet core supplier for its revamped 2G and 3G networks and future LTE network in Denmark. Though still a relatively small vendor, Starent is about to gain massive scale. CiscoSystem (NASDAQ:CSCO) last month agreed to buy Starent for $2.9 billion.

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