Telecom Italia Gets Ready for LTE

Telecom Italia (TIM) has selected existing supplier Nokia Networks to upgrade its radio access network in some parts of the country with multi-standard base stations that can support Long Term Evolution (LTE). (See NSN Upgrades Telecom Italia.)

The Italian operator isn't ready to launch LTE just yet -- it doesn't even have the spectrum needed for LTE. But when Telecom Italia does roll out the next-generation mobile broadband network, NSN will have "exclusivity" for LTE in the areas where it is upgrading the network now, according to Vitaliano Vitale, who is responsible for marketing and communications in the Sub-Region South for NSN.

As part of this network-modernization project, Telecom Italia will deploy 7,000 of NSN's Flexi Multiradio Base Stations, which represent about one-third of its network in Italy, in the following regions: Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna, Marche and Umbria.

Why this matters
This is an important deal for NSN in that its existing customer wants to use its equipment as it updates its mobile network and plans to migrate to LTE. NSN's Vitale said that the vendor's share of Telecom Italia's radio access network business has not changed as a result of this modernization project. Telecom Italia has recently trialed LTE equipment from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) as well as Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

The news also follows NSN's announcement that it has been selected to participate in China Mobile Communications Corp. 's Long Term Evolution Time Division Duplex (LTE TDD) trial, which shows some LTE momentum for the vendor. (See NSN in China LTE TDD Trial.)

As for when Telecom Italia will launch LTE, the operator's press office had not supplied an answer as this article was published.

The answer will partly depend on when the regulator Agcom is able to hold the spectrum auction for 2.6GHz and 800MHz frequencies for LTE. Last week, Agcom kicked off a 30-day consultation about this auction and its proposed rules. One industry source says that the auction is likely to be held in the summer this year, while another source says the auction is not expected to happen until next year. The consultation will be completed at the end of this month, at which point the picture should be more clear.

For more
Italy appears to be on a similar time schedule as the U.K. when it comes to the LTE auctions. For more on LTE in Italy and the U.K., please see these stories:

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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