TeliaSonera: We'll Do 4G in 2010

Major European carrier Telia Company announced Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network deals with two of the next-generation mobile infrastructure sector's leading vendors Thursday morning and has set itself a target of launching 4G services next year.

The Nordic powerhouse is the national operator in Sweden and Finland and has operations in Norway, Denmark, Spain, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and a number of markets in Eurasia. Now it's building an LTE network in the Swedish capital of Stockholm with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and in Oslo, Norway's capital, with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

The carrier says its aim is to be "one of the first operators in the world to launch 4G," and that it is working towards a "commercial launch in 2010."

Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown, who has just completed a report on the LTE market, says the news is "significant because TeliaSonera is one of the first, arguably the first, to award and start building LTE networks." (See Operators Face LTE Deployment Dilemma and LTE Base Station Strategies.)

Brown says the only other carriers with claims to be first with LTE are NTT DoCoMo and "the Canadian operators Telus and Bell Canada, which are jointly building an HSPA [high-speed packet access] network that is software-upgradeable to LTE." (See Canadians Leap to LTE, DoCoMo Takes LTE to 250 Mbit/s, and NSN, Fujitsu Team for DoCoMo LTE.)

What's the big deal with LTE?
Why would anyone care about being first to market with a service using LTE technology? Because of the potential data speeds that will make most of today's fixed line broadband connections seem very slow, and the cost-per-bit operating efficiencies that LTE will deliver to carriers.

In his new report, "LTE Base Stations & the Evolved Radio Access Network," Brown notes that LTE is designed to provide "greater spectral efficiency and enhanced application performance," and has emerged "as the leading choice for next-generation wireless networks." Once deployed, LTE is set to provide real-world, average downlink data rates of 34 Mbit/s and uplinks of about 7.3 Mbit/s, compared with the real-world, average HSPA downlink rate of about 7 Mbit/s and uplink of 2.6 Mbit/s. (The theoretical peak rate downlink data speed of LTE is 173 Mbit/s.)

Coincidentally, Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) announced today that it has "successfully trialed" a high-speed mobile broadband data connection that achieved "actual peak data download rates of up to 16 Mbit/s" using HSPA+ technology on its Spanish network.

Heavy Reading's Brown hopes the industry will be a bit more measured in the race to be first with 4G technologies than it was when 3G hit the market in the early years of this decade. "The first battle lines are being drawn, just like with 3G, but hopefully without the irrational exuberance that came with 3G," he says.

Brown adds that the transition from 3G to 4G will be easier than the shift from 2G to 3G, as "there's a proven demand for mobile data services, and the operators all have packet service capabilities now, something they didn't have when they first introduced 3G. Also, WiMax systems have been working well from the radio point of view, which suggests that LTE radios will probably mature pretty quickly."

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