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TeliaSonera plans 4G Nordic expansion

05 апреля 2010

When TeliaSonera launched the world’s first commercial fourth-generation mobile broadband service in Stockholm and Oslo in December, some of the strongest interest came from sports photographers.

With data speeds more than 10 times faster than 3G, the so-called long-term evolution technology promised to cut times for downloading pictures in a business where photographers are competing to get the best images to customers first.

Now, the Swedish mobile operator is expanding the network to a further 29 cities across Sweden and Norway this year, blazing a trail for operators such as Verizon of the US and NTT DoCoMo of Japan, which are planning LTE launches later in 2010.

“We could set up an office just to handle all the companies who want to come and take a look,” says Håkan Dahlström, president of mobility services for TeliaSonera.

With the first 4G mobile phones still a year or more from market, the service is currently available only through wireless modems, or “dongles”, attached to a laptop computer.

Data speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, compared with 2 to 6 megabits for 3G, provide subscribers with a mobile connection faster than many fixed broadband services at home.

The launch of 4G highlights the changing landscape for wireless operators as demand for mobile internet grows. Data traffic, such as e-mail and video, exceeded the volume of voice calls across the world’s mobile networks for the first time in December, according to Ericsson, the network equipment vendor.

In the Nordic region, Mr Dahlström says data’s share is already two-thirds of total traffic.

The number of 4G subscribers is still in the low thousands but volumes are expected to increase as the network expands, backed by the launch this quarter of a new modem from Samsung Electronics that will allow users to access 3G and 4G signals from the same dongle for the first time.

The move into 4G ahead of bigger global rivals has underlined TeliaSonera’s pioneering reputation, half a century after it launched the world’s first mobile phone service for car drivers in 1956.

More broadly, it promises to reassert the role of Nordic companies at the forefront of industry innovation as Ericsson of Sweden and Nokia, the Finnish handset maker, battle to maintain leadership of their respective markets as competition grows.

TeliaSonera chose Ericsson to build its 4G network, supported by Nokia Siemens Networks, the Finnish-German joint venture, ahead of a rival bid from Huawei of China.

Ericsson and NSN hope to use the project to burnish their expertise in LTE as other operators prepare to award 4G contracts.

Mr Dahlström says the rush to launch 4G was motivated by domestic competitive pressure rather than desire to grandstand on the world stage. “We wanted to show customers that a relationship with us is future-proof.”

But with the company 37 per cent owned by the Swedish government and a further 13 per cent by the Finnish government, TeliaSonera helps carry the flag for Nordic ambition in telecoms.

The company has operations in 20 countries across the Nordic region, Spain, eastern Europe and Asian markets as far afield as Nepal and Cambodia.

Finland is next in line for an LTE service from TeliaSonera, although a launch date is yet to be set, and the company is planning to bid for forthcoming licences in Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania.

For all TeliaSonera’s enthusiasm for 4G, growth in mobile internet services poses a challenge for operators as they struggle to generate enough data revenues to offset decline in their maturing voice businesses.

Many operators have encouraged uptake of mobile broadband with flat-rate tariffs that allow customers to use unlimited amounts of data. Mr Dahlström says the time has come for heavy users to pay more. “We’re starting to create market acceptance for the logic of paying according to speed and volume.”

TeliaSonera charges SKr599 ($83) a month for 30 gigabytes of data at 4G speeds, with additional fees above that threshold. This compares with SKr268 a month for 10 gigabytes at the fastest 3G speed.

Mr Dahlström says operators will continue trying to extract revenue from the content moved across their networks. TeliaSonera, for example, has its own music service in partnership with Spotify, the Swedish streaming website.

But he insists there is plenty of money to be made from the more mundane business of broadband access. “In this industry, the business model is always being adapted so we are not afraid of change,” he says.

Источник: Financial Times

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