Telefónica Kicks Off LTE Trials
Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) revealed plans today for a large-scale Long Term Evolution (LTE) trial project that will span six countries across Europe and Latin America.
The trials mark the start of Telefónica's LTE vendor selection process, and the results will help the carrier determine when, where, and how it will roll out the next-generation mobile broadband technology.
The Spanish-based international operator has invited just about all of the major infrastructure vendors to participate in the six-month trials. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), Nokia Networks , and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) are the vendors the carrier has selected "so far," according to Telefónica, and the project is open to other suppliers. (See ZTE Pumps Its LTE Credentials, NEC's LTE Launch Pad, and Huawei Eyes UK LTE Trials.)
In Europe, the trials will be staged in the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom, while in Latin America the trials will take place in Argentina and Brazil.
The news is significant because it shows commitment to deploy LTE from a European-based operator and indicates the potential for rolling out the technology in Latin America.
To date, the LTE charge has been led by NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) in Japan and Verizon Wireless in the U.S., both planning to launch commercial LTE services next year. Several of Telefónica's European competitors have been lukewarm on LTE this year -- such as Orange France , T-Mobile International AG , and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) -- but the Spanish operator's moves could spur similar trials in the region. (See MWC 2009: Verizon Picks LTE Vendors, DoCoMo Shells Out on LTE, T-Mobile, Orange Open Up on LTE, and T-Mobile: Voice Discord Threatens LTE.)
Broader LTE potential
Telefónica's LTE moves could have implications not only for Europe and Latin America, but also for China. Telefónica and China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU) recently strengthened their relationship and committed to working more closely together on R&D and jointly developing wireless service platforms. (See China Unicom, Telefónica Strengthen Ties.)
But Telefónica stops short of committing to an LTE launch date. In today's press announcement, Telefónica says the implementation of LTE will depend on the "availability of equipment to customers (datacards and later on, telephones)" and the "spectrum required to be able to provide services." (See Europe Faces 4G Spectrum Delays.)
These trials will not be the first time Telefónica has tried out LTE. In April in Madrid, the carrier demonstrated the technology and made VoIP and video calls using LTE equipment from Ericsson. The data rates achieved were more than 140 Mbit/s in the demo, which Telefónica notes is about 10 times faster than today's 3G HSPA networks. (See Telefonica Tests LTE.)
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung