Ericsson has won the auction for Nortel Networks’ CDMA and LTE access assets, agreeing to pay US$1.13 billion in a deal worth nearly double that of Nokia Siemens Networks’ original ‘stalking horse’ bid of US$650 million. About 2,500 North American-based Nortel employees will join the world’s largest mobile equipment vendor, of which around 400 are focused on LTE research and development. Nortel, based in Toronto, will ask bankruptcy courts in the US and Canada to approve the sale this week. Ericsson is getting the assets debt free and says the purchase will add to its earnings within a year of closing.

Ericsson’s win will strengthen its dominance as the world’s number one mobile network vendor and see North America become the company’s largest market. It follows other recent huge success in the US; in February the Swedish vendor was confirmed as a primary supplier of kit for Verizon Wireless’ future LTE deployment (expected to be one of the world’s first major commercial launches of the technology), and earlier this month signed a US$5 billion, seven-year deal to run the networks of Sprint Nextel (the first major US mobile operator to outsource its network operations). Meanwhile, Nokia Siemens Networks is putting a brave face on its loss. “Our final offer for Nortel’s assets represented a fair price, and we did not enter this process with a win-at-any-cost mindset,” said Bosco Novak, Chief Markets Operations Officer, in a statement. “Ours was an opportunistic bid aimed at supporting the great progress we’ve made in North America in the past 18 months, and we are very confident that momentum will continue to grow.” Ericsson also beat offers from New York-based private equity fund MatlinPatterson Global Advisors, whilst BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) earlier argued Nortel had blocked its US$1.1 billion bid. Dow Jones Newswires today reports that Canada-based RIM has said in a new statement it remains interested in acquiring the assets and “the government has the authority and responsibility to get involved to protect vital Canadian interests.”