If Deutsche Telekom's ambition is to be a "pan-European" operator in central and eastern Europe, then TeliaSonera has the same objective in the Nordic countries.
During last week's Mobile World Congress, the German incumbent grabbed headlines by launching IP-based services in three markets simultaneously, and Telia Company has told Light Reading it plans on doing exactly the same thing in the Nordic region. (See Deutsche Telekom Turns On Pan-European IP.)
Like Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), the Scandinavian operator is prioritizing investment in virtualization technologies with the aim of boosting agility and reducing costs. By phasing out the silos that have previously handled service development for specific markets, and replacing them with a single platform responsible for multi-country operations, it expects to be able to launch new offers more quickly and economically than is currently possible.
Speaking to Light Reading at MWC, Allan Kock, TeliaSonera's director of RAN development, said the operator would launch a VoLTE service over the single platform in several Nordic markets next year.
Kock also indicated the platform would in future support the introduction of services in Eurasian markets where TeliaSonera is also active.
In Europe, the company's footprint covers Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Spain and Sweden, while in Eurasia TeliaSonera is active in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It also has a networks business in Nepal.
"You don't need vendor-specific servers with virtualization and that's a big step in a telco environment because in the past hardware and software were tightly connected," says Kock, highlighting further virtualization benefits. "It will allow us to have flexibility and cost-efficiency."
TeliaSonera has already made good progress on the virtualization of its IT systems and now claims that more than 50% of its IT applications are running in a virtualized environment.
The next challenge is to extend virtualization into the network, says Kock. TeliaSonera has already started work on virtualizing its IMS platform: It already has some virtualized IMS platforms up and running today and expects to complete this transition next year. "Like Deutsche Telekom, we want to create a platform that will serve a multi-market operation," he says.
Ultimately, it should be possible to virtualize parts of the radio access network itself -- a development that Kock sees occurring with the introduction of 5G technology from 2020 onwards. One advantage here should be a reduction in latency, allowing TeliaSonera to provide a range of more advanced mobile applications for which network delays would prove highly disruptive.
VoLTE services have already been introduced in the Far East and the US but European operators have been relying on circuit-switched fallback technology to support the use of voice services on LTE devices.
Kock says VoLTE will allow TeliaSonera to reduce the time it takes customers to set up a call and lead to improvements in service quality through the use of HD Voice functionality. Eventually, shifting voice services on to the LTE network might also help to free up spectrum currently used to support legacy network technologies.
TeliaSonera, however, does not appear to face any kind of spectrum crunch. During a press conference at MWC, Kock ruled out the use of unlicensed spectrum with LTE services. "We're in a strong situation when it comes to licensed spectrum assets and we don't see the need for unlicensed bands," he told reporters.
TeliaSonera plans to spend 17 billion Swedish kronor (US$2.01 billion) in capital expenditure this year, up slightly from SEK16.7 billion ($1.97 billion) in 2014, with much of that spending earmarked for the extension of LTE network infrastructure. (See Pain in Spain & Eurasia Hits TeliaSonera.)
The operator has not issued revenue guidance for this year but expects to generate about SEK35 billion ($4.13 billion) in EBITDA -- the same amount it generated in 2014.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading