TeliaSonera delivers a surprise LTE Christmas gift

Steven Hartley and Julien Grivolas/Ovum
21 Dec 2009

TeliaSonera’s commercial launch of its LTE networks in Stockholm and Oslo is a fillip to its global image as well as those of suppliers Ericsson and Huawei. However, we hope the service’s marketing doesn’t repeat the failings of early 3G launches.

Verizon will feel slightly deflated that it has been beaten to the punch by its European rival. The race has been between TeliaSonera and Verizon Wireless for the title of ‘first commercial LTE network operator’.

By appearing in 2009 and not 2010, when Verizon’s launch was expected, this announcement makes a statement as to the maturity of LTE. This will be extremely good news to the LTE supplier community, which now has a tangible case study.

Admittedly, coverage is limited. In Norway the network will serve just Oslo. In Sweden only Stockholm has been covered. In both cases the network does not extend beyond the city center, with population coverage in Stockholm reaching just 400,000 people.

Nonetheless, to cover even these limited areas the network will have required more cell sites than would have been required for equivalent coverage using HSPA, as LTE operates in the higher 2.6GHz band.

This raises questions as to TeliaSonera’s future rollout plans. TeliaSonera promises 25 more cities in Sweden and three in Norway. At this frequency TeliaSonera will require more infrastructure than previously, if it adopts the traditional macro-network build-out approach. The cost implications of this suggest that TeliaSonera, like future LTE operators, will need to take a new approach to network planning.

TeliaSonera has been a battleground for the two infrastructure vendors involved in today’s announcements. Ericsson provided the network in Stockholm and Huawei in Oslo. Throughout the deployment both have released ‘tit-for-tat’ press releases claiming various LTE firsts, and today was no different. For the record, Ericsson won today’s encounter – by two minutes!

Yet today’s news is even better for Huawei than Ericsson. Ericsson is expected to be a leader in its field. However, as we wrote recently, Huawei is rapidly gaining ground on the established vendors and today’s announcement in its rival’s own backyard is further evidence of that.

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