TeliaSonera on LTE: Just Do It!
Perhaps it was the volcanic ash clouds that loom over Europe this week that brought about such carpe diem statements. Or, the Swedish operator, which launched the world's first LTE networks in Oslo and Stockholm in December last year, just doesn't want to go on being a lone mobile broadband pioneer. (See TeliaSonera First to Go Live With LTE, TeliaSonera Prices First LTE Offer, and MWC 2010: TeliaSonera's LTE Progress.)
"Stop doing trials and launch your networks," said Tommy Ljunggren, senior VP and head of system development at mobility services at TeliaSonera. "We don’t want to be alone in this game. We want more operators on the track."
TeliaSonera decided not to conduct LTE trials so that it could be first to launch the next-generation mobile broadband technology, according to Ljunggren. "My advice is don't make any trials," he said.
Such comments prompted some skeptical scuttlebutt, which implied that the service TeliaSonera is running now is in fact a trial, during the coffee break.
Perhaps anticipating such comments, Ljunggren admitted in his keynote address that he is often asked whether the LTE services in Oslo and Stockholm were elaborate user trials but insisted that, "it's really commercial."
TeliaSonera's LTE service, which uses LTE-only USB dongles from Samsung Corp. , is limited to a few thousand users. The operator expects to have soon multimode dongles supporting 2G, 3G, and LTE. (See TeliaSonera Gets Dual-Mode 3G/LTE Devices.)
Some of the reasons why the operator launched the new technology so early is that it had a license, first of all, and that the user behavior it sees in its 3G network shows that there will be ever more demand for mobile data, according to Ljunggren.
But TeliaSonera is wary of being too far out in front of a new technology development, which is a lesson that NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) learned with its 3G launch in 2001, for example.
"DoCoMo was the runaway leader with the 3G launch," said Seizo Onoe, senior VP and managing director of R&D strategy development at NTT DoCoMo, speaking here at the LTE event. "That's not so good. With LTE, we want to be one of the first."
If more operators launched LTE services, that would help to spur network equipment and device suppliers, as well as their supply chain into action, which would ensure higher volumes and lower prices.
TeliaSonera will soon have some LTE company in Sweden, if competitor Net4Mobility's plan remains on track. The operator, which is a joint venture between Tele2 AB (Nasdaq: TLTO) and Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN)'s Swedish operations, plans to launch by the end of this year, according to Bjorn Lundstrom, CTO of Tele2, who addressed the LTE event via a Skype Ltd. link (the volcanic ash in the air thwarted his flight). (See Swedish Operators Join Forces in LTE Race.)
In addition, the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) projects that there will be 22 commercial LTE launches before the end of this year. (See LTE Watch: Operator Commitments Double.)
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile