TeliaSonera awards first LTE contract
Nordic operator names Ericsson, Huawei as vendors; plans commercial launch in 2010
TeliaSonera today said Ericsson and Huawei Technologies are in the process of building what may be the world’s first Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network in Oslo and Stockholm with a target commercial launch date of 2010. Though several operators, including Verizon Wireless and NTT DoCoMo, have announced their plans to build LTE networks in the coming year, TeliaSonera is the first operator to publicly award a deployment contract and confirm it has broken ground on its commercial rollout.
TeliaSonera, Ericsson and Huawei released no financial details of the contract. Nor did they reveal what the eventual scope of the rollout will be. Each vendor only confirmed they begun deployment in their respective single markets. While Oslo and Stockholm are both capital cities and two of the largest markets in TeliaSonera’s territory, the Scandinavian carrier has wireless operations throughout the northern Europe and the Baltic regions as well as in Spain. But the choice of Sweden and Norway for the initial launch is obvious, as both countries were among the first to auction 4G licenses last spring. TeliaSonera won 2.6 GHz licenses in paired bands, spectrum that is being identified all over the world for 4G.
Though TeliaSonera is first to make its deployment public, it won’t necessarily be the first to have an operational or commercial network. A global race for LTE has begun, sparked at first by the threat of WiMax but now moving under its own momentum. Verizon Wireless hasn’t named any vendors—though it is performing trials with part-owner Vodafone using gear from Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nortel Networks, Alcatel-Lucent and Motorola. Verizon recently indicated it is accelerating its LTE rollout timeline and plans to build its first networks in 2009, though a full commercial launch isn’t likely until next year.
Japan’s NTT DoCoMo has been the most active operator in LTE, starting its network testing in 2006. AT CTIA Wireless last year, it revealed field tests of LTE—which it calls Super 3G—using 4 x 4 multiple input-multiple output smart antennas technologies achieved the downlink speeds of 250 Mb/s. NTT has also said it plans to launch commercially in 2010. Like Verizon, DoCoMo has not named any specific markets or vendors, though it is working with a host of handset and infrastructure partners, including NEC, Fujitsu, Panasonic, NSN and Ericsson.
Ericsson is the world’s largest wireless infrastructure vendor, and its selection by TeliaSonera comes as little surprise. Huawei, however, is a bit more of a shock. The Chinese vendor has been building up as strong 3G clientele, building UMTS networks around the world and challenging the position of the established incumbents. In the race for 4G, Huawei seems to be jumping to an early lead. Not only did it win TeliaSonera’s initial contract, Telus and Bell Mobility named Huawei along with NSN to build their joint high-speed packet access network in Canada, a network that will supposedly be software upgradable to LTE in the future.
As more and more operators commit to LTE launches in 2010, more pressure falls on WiMax operators, who were initially counting on two-to-three year lead in the race to 4G. In the US, Clearwire has now launched two WiMax markets, but its once-aggressive rollout plan seems to have slowed considerably.
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