Ericsson's Need for Speed

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress -- Some people swoon for supermodel sightings, some thrill at film stars, but the capacity crowd at the Metronom Gallery this morning got their kicks by looking at skinny white boxes on sticks. [Ed. note: Wow. Sad.]

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) booked the back-street modern art galley to unveil -- quite literally -- its next generation mini-basestation designs. The Swedish vendor is selling the flat-panel modular design as an energy efficient way for operators to support multiple radio technologies and move from 3G to 4G. For instance, the design will allow carriers to drop Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology into one side of a High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) as the technology becomes available.

Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) CEO Sol Trujillo talked up the need for speed at the Ericsson event. He says that the Australian operator's non-SMS data revenues had increased over 90 percent when the company last reported its financials, a little over a year since the carrier had switched on the faster "NextG" network that Ericsson built.

"Speed kills for certain applications," quipped Trujillo.

He says that deploying a UMTS and HSDPA-based network has enabled Telstra to offer more TV and video applications as well as faster data access. Trujillo says that around 15 percent of the firm's 3G subscribers also use a separate 3G PC card for laptop data access, although he admits that there may be "some overlap" in those numbers with subscribers using their phone as a data modem. The network currently offers peak download speeds of 14.4 Mbit/s.

The operator wants to squeeze more juice out of its 3G deployment before it moves to 4G, Trujillo said: "We're going to 21 Mbit/s late in 2008 and 42 Mbit/s in 2009 through HSPA evolution." It is possible that some of Ericsson's European customers might have to wait a little longer to achieve such speeds, however. Trujillo explains that part of the reason Telstra is getting this performance out of this network is because of the better coverage and building penetration offered over the 850MHz spectrum that it is using.

"That is an advantage and I think we'll see it in Europe sooner rather than later," predicted Ericsson CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg at the event.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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