APAC Operators Commit to LTE

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY) is the latest operator to unveil its plans for the proto-4G mobile technology Long Term Evolution (LTE), announcing today its intention to conduct trials in four Asia/Pacific markets -- Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines -- starting in early 2010.

SingTel, which says the trials will last between six and nine months, is sourcing LTE access and packet core technology from six equipment vendors: 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).

For the overseas trials it will collaborate with carriers in which it holds equity stakes: SingTel Optus Pty. Ltd. in Australia (100 percent holding), PT Telekomunikasi Selular (Telkomsel) in Indonesia (35 percent holding), and Globe Telecom Inc. in the Philippines (47.3 percent).

Incidentally, those six vendors are the same ones engaged with Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) for its LTE trials in Europe and Latin America. (See Telefónica Kicks Off LTE Trials.)

As SingTel wraps up its trials, Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) intends to be nearing commercial launch. The mobile broadband services pioneer has been busy working with network infrastructure and handset vendors in order to meet its previously stated late 2010 launch timeline. (See DoCoMo Develops LTE Handsets, DoCoMo Starts Afresh for LTE Backhaul , DoCoMo LTE Devices in 2010, and DoCoMo Shells Out on LTE.)

The operator's president and CEO, Ryuji Yamada, told attendees at the GSM Association (GSMA) 's Mobile Asia Congress in Hong Kong today that DoCoMo is on course for a December 2010 launch, according to the Association's Mobile Business Briefing. Data cards will be in the initial launch, with handsets following in 2011, and the expected LTE capex budget is at the lower end of the previously stated range, at ¥300 billion (US$3.37 billion).

DoCoMo isn't alone in its Japanese LTE ambitions, though, as local rival KDDI Corp. is also preparing a launch, though at the later date of 2012. (See KDDI Picks Challengers for LTE Deployment.)

China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), meanwhile, has been plugging its TD-LTE (Time Division Duplex LTE) plans. The carrier, which boasts more than 500 million mobile customers, has this year launched 3G services on its still evolving TD-SCDMA network, but it plans to migrate quickly to TD-LTE, which it has been busy trialing. (See China: 1 Billion Lines Served , Taking LTE Global, and China Mobile Fast-Tracks TD-LTE .)

It has also been seeking support for its proposals around aligning time-division duplex (TDD) and frequency-division duplex (FDD) LTE developments. (See ITU Telecom: LTE in China and Moto Completes China TD-LTE Trial .)

China Mobile's latest move is to build a TD-LTE network, with Huawei as its infrastructure supplier, to provide high-speed mobile connections at the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China, which runs from May 1 to October 31, 2010. (See Huawei Builds TD-LTE Trial Net.)

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has managed to get involved in that pilot by clinching a deal to build an indoor network for the event and provide TD-LTE dongles to Expo visitors. (See Motorola Preps TD-LTE Dongle.)

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) is also providing indoor TD-LTE capabilities for two of the show's multiple pavilions.

Moto has also been pushing its LTE credentials this week with the launch of a new eNodeB (LTE base station) and news that it has passed the TD-LTE functionality test set by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). (See Motorola Expands Its LTE Solution and Motorola Passes TD-LTE Test.)

With multiple major operators already committed to LTE, the GSMA expects LTE service uptake to kick in starting in 2013, and for there to be 87 million mobile subscribers using LTE services by 2014. For more LTE news, see:

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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