TeliaSonera: LTE Handsets Early Next Year
"We expect to see handhelds already early next year," said the Swedish operator's head of R&D Johan Wickman during his morning keynote at Light Reading's Virtual LTE Event today. (See LTE Virtual Event.)
This means that the race is now on to be the first operator to have a handset out that can support the faster data rates of Long Term Evolution technology. MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) has said that it will have a Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) LTE handset available sometime in the second half of 2010 for its Las Vegas deployment and a few other metropolitan markets. Verizon Wireless , meanwhile, has said that it will have up to five smartphones using the technology available by May 2011. (See CTIA 2010: The LTE Smartphone Scramble.)
These three operators, along with NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), are at the forefront of pushing the delivery of early LTE handsets. As it stands at the moment, however, TeliaSonera is the only operator that has a live commercial deployment of LTE up and running now in Sweden and Norway.
The operator currently has an LTE data card that it can offer to users, often in a bundle with other services or a 3G smartphone. Data cards that support both LTE and 3G are coming next.
"At the end of this quarter we will have one multimode dongle, with several vendors [delivering multi-mode] by the end of the year," Wickman said.
The R&D head believes that the LTE deployment has already had an effect on the operator's bottom line since its launch at the end of 2009. Net revenue at the operator was up 3.9 percent in the first quarter of 2010. (See TeliaSonera Reports Q1.) Wickman says that first commercial deployment of 4G technology has been highly atypical, because it actually worked well from the outset, creating quite a "wow" factor among users.
Compared to 3G deployment, the LTE rollout that TeliaSonera did was much smoother, with the technology performing without hiccups, Wickman said. Users have been very pleased with getting 10 times as much bandwidth, he added, but they've been particularly "wowed" by the low latency of the 4G connections.
"They click and it happens, with very little delay. We have seen a big uptick in upstream video; upstream in particular seems to be a 4G killer app."
This smooth experience is why the operator is pushing its LTE compatriots to stop testing LTE and start commercial services. "I think all of you should go commercial," he admonished his virtual audience. (See TeliaSonera on LTE: Just Do It!)
He didn't address exactly what was deployed by Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. during the rollout of the network. Instead, he focused on Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) during the Q&A and merely acknowledged that Huawei was there and was "technically OK." (See Huawei Beats Ericsson to Swedish LTE Deal and NSN Replaces Huawei in Euro LTE Rollout.)
On the topic of how to bill for LTE, TeliaSonera is a fan of data caps and metered billing. The debate about using this method rather than unlimited data plans is currently a hot topic in the US because AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is switching to tiered pricing for 3G. (See TeliaSonera Tips Hat to Mobile Data Caps and Capping the Data Gusher.)
"I think it’s a good idea to match the offering with the user’s need and the user’s ability to pay," said Wickman.
He notes that the operator has had particular success offering the Spotify peer-to-peer music service as part of an LTE bundle. He says the addictive nature of the service drives people to buy more data for their plans.
"You need to have very good capacity and coverage," to offer such services, he warned, however.
For its next trick, TeliaSonera now has "frequencies in Denmark and Estonia" that can support LTE. Wickman says the operator will continue building out its Scandinavian network and move into those countries as well with the new technology.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile, and Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading