Motorola and HP in Linux tie-up

Motorola plans first use of the open-source software in the core of next-generation cell phone networks.

Motorola plans to sell mobile phone network equipment that uses Linux-based code, a step forward in network gear makers' efforts to rally around a standard.

The company on Monday said it will sell Hewlett-Packard's Integrity cx2600 server and a carrier-grade version of the Linux operating system that's meant to handle the stresses of a next-generation cell phone network.

The hardware and software package will be designed for operators that use either the IDEN (Integrated Dispatch Enhanced Network) cell phone standard, such as Nextel Communications, or the more popular CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) standard, used in the United States by Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

Joy King, director of worldwide marketing for HP's network and service provider business unit, believes that Linux is evolving into the standard to use. While Motorola isn't ready to dump its own software just yet, she said, through this partnership, it has started down that path.

"This is the first real carrier-grade open-source software implementation in the heart of the call path," King said. "Motorola and others have traditionally used their own homegrown software, and it was so expensive it could only be targeted at top-tier carriers.

For years, major network equipment makers have tried to shed the software each developed separately to power their network equipment in favor of a unified standard.

The idea is simple: Network equipment makers agree on the same basic building blocks for the switches, routers and other equipment they make, then add their own improvements from there. By using the same basic ingredients, they spend 20 percent less on building the gear, because they won't have to develop every piece in-house. The savings can be passed on to the telephone company and, eventually, to its customers.

Major equipment vendors, including Nortel Networks, Nokia, Lucent Technologies and Ericsson, are also going in this direction, according to analysts.

Motorola said it plans to start selling the new equipment in the next 12 to 18 months. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

As part of the partnership, Motorola will sell HP's OpenCall Radio Signaling Controller software, which will be used in the core of cell phone networks to set up calls.

The HP Integrity cx2600 server that Motorola will use is based on Intel's Itanium processor, signaling that there's life left in the chipmaker's hard-luck product line.

Intel has spent more than a billion dollars in the past decade on chip development, server designs, venture investments and software to create a full-fledged environment for Itanium. Computers containing the chip rank among the fastest machines in the world, and sales have substantially improved in the past 18 months. Still, Itanium holds only a fraction of the market, and analysts and competitors often assert that it will remain a niche product.

CNET's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.