The fight over the bones of Nortel gets more intense. Ericsson has just become the third company to bid to buy the carrier wireless assets of Nortel Networks.

Kathy Egan, Ericsson's New York-based vice-president of communications, csaid the company has placed a formal bid for the Nortel division that builds code division multiple access (CDMA) networks for wireless carriers and is working on Long Term Evolution technologies.

But she would neither confirm not deny a published report quoting an anonymous source claiming the amount Ericsson has bid is US$730(£442) million. If true that would make Ericsson the highest known bidder so far.

Ericsson is now the third company to go public with an offer to buy Nortel's carrier wireless unit. All companies who place bids will participate in a 24-hour court-supervised auction later today.

If Ericsson acquired the Nortel CDMA business, it would "bolster" Ericsson's recently-announced US$5 billion contract to manage Sprint's network in the US, said Philip Marshall, senior research fellow at the Boston-based Yankee Group.

Toronto-based Nortel, which has been operating under bankruptcy protection since January, is currently looking for buyers for its business units. Earlier this week, Avaya said it had offered to buy Nortel's enterprise business for US$475 million.

In June, Nortel agreed to sell its CDMA and LTE unit to Nokia Siemens Networks for US$650 million. That agreement was known as a "stalking horse" bid because it set the stage for other companies to offer to buy the same assets.

Private equity firm MatlinPatterson, to whom Nortel owes more than $400 million, placed a bid of US$725 million in an attempt to trump Nokia Siemens Networks, which has promised to offer jobs to at least 2,500 Nortel workers and establish a centre of excellence in Ottawa.

Egan could not comment on how many Nortel employees Ericsson would retain if it acquired the CDMA assets, but Marshall said this would probably depend on Canadian government funding.

For both Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks, they are bidding in an effort to drum up more business from North American carriers.

Ericsson operates a research centre in Montreal developing LTE.

Nokia Siemens Networks is just starting its Canadian business. At a recent speech to the Economic Club of Canada, the company's North American head, Sue Spradley, said the firm has 75 employees in Canada now.

"Our goal with this acquisition is to have Ottawa become a centre of excellence for innovation going forward," Spradley said at the time. "This is not about letting go of employees. We will be adding more and more research and development into the (Ottawa research) centre to allow it to grow."

Nokia Siemens Networks is a joint venture between Nokia and Siemens. The stalking horse deal with Nortel would involve the sale of Nortel's equipment, contracts, real estate sub-leases. It would also allow Nokia Siemens Networks to purchase licensing agreements for Nortel's intellectual property related to CDMA and LTE.