Telefónica Cranks 3G to 42 Mbit/s
The network upgrades will mark the first commercial implementation of dual-cell (or dual-carrier) HSPA+ in Spain. Dual-carrier enables mobile operators to double their data capacity by "bonding" two adjacent 5GHz channels. (See MWC 2010: Dual-Carrier Duel.)
Telefónica is among the first few operators worldwide taking what is expected to be a well-trod upgrade path from 21-Mbit/s HSPA+ to dual-cell HSPA+, which enables peak data rates of 42 Mbit/s. Other operators that have fired up dual-cell HSPA+ include Sweden's Hi3G Access AB (3), Hong Kong CSL Ltd. , Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) in Australia, and Telus Mobility in Canada. (See MWC 2010: Dual-Carrier Duel, T-Mobile USA Promises 42-Mbit/s 3G in 2011 , Telus Takes 3G to 42 Mbit/s, Europe Fires Up Faster 3G , and CSL Demos HSPA+/LTE Rollout.)
Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown was not surprised by Telefónica's move since he expects more carriers to deploy dual-carrier HSPA+ in Europe, and not just in the odd market here and there. "I would bet you'll see dual-carrier in most European markets next year," he said.
After 21-Mbit/s HSPA+ on the 3G upgrade path, operators can either deploy multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) antennas to boost data speeds up to 28 Mbit/s or implement dual-carrier HSPA+ to double available capacity to 42 Mbit/s. Heavy Reading's Brown says dual-carrier is "cheaper and easier" than deploying MIMO, which is why most operators are heading for dual-carrier as they look to increase available capacity on their existing 3G networks.
The first customers to adopt Telefónica's souped-up 3G services will be business users in Spain's two largest cities, Madrid and Barcelona. The new service will be available to business customers in two packages: €49 (US$65) per month with a data usage cap of 10 Gbytes; and €39 ($51) per month with a data usage limit of 5 GBytes. When users hit the monthly data limit, their data service will be slowed down to 128 kbit/s.
Telefónica has already upgraded its 3G network to 21-Mbit/s HSPA+ in many cities during the past 12 months. The operator says it expects to have HSPA+ coverage in all Spanish cities with populations of more than 250,000 by the end of this year. Now, the operator says it will roll out dual-cell 42 Mbit/s HSPA+ to those same cities by the end of 2011.
The first, and only, device offered for the 42-Mbit/s service is Novatel Wireless's Ovation MC545 USB, which Telefónica will sell for €19 (US$25).
Telefónica showed the device hitting an over-the-air download speed of 40.5 Mbit/s using Ericsson's network infrastructure at a press event in Madrid on Tuesday. While this demo showed a near-peak speed, Telefónica is not committing to any average data rates users might experience when using the higher-speed services.
Still looking at LTE
While Telefónica shows there's plenty of life left in its 3G network, the operator also continues to test Long Term Evolution. This time last year, the Spanish operator announced it was to test LTE equipment from six suppliers: 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). Those trials are still in progress with all six vendors, according to a Telefónica spokeswoman. (See Telefónica Kicks Off LTE Trials.)
But the operator notes that any deployment plans for LTE are dependent on spectrum availability. So far, the only market where Telefónica has spectrum for LTE is Germany. There, Telefonica O2 Germany has started building four pilot LTE networks using equipment from Huawei and NSN. (See German Operators Get Busy With LTE and O2 Germany Preps LTE Pilots.)
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile