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Mobile broadband to surpass fixed in 2011

20 октября 2010

Elisa Corporation sees Finnish mobile broadband customers exceeding those connected to fixed networks next year, but insist growth in the mobile space is not taking place to the detriment of the fixed business.

But despite the popularity of mobile broadband, the Finnish telco is in no hurry to move to LTE, predicting that HSPA will meet its customers' needs for some years. However, the company is looking forward to beginning the closure of its GSM networks in the next decade as UMTS goes mass market.

Mobile broadband subscriptions surpassed DSL connections in mid-2010, and the number will grow to exceed total fixed broadband connections – including cable and fibre – next year, Eetu Prieur, head of access networks at Elisa Corporation, said at a press event organised by Nokia Siemens Networks in London on Tuesday.

But although Elisa's fixed broadband base is declining slightly, "you don't see this cannibalisation," Prieur said. "Customers are taking both."

There are 1.6 million fixed broadband subscriptions in Finland, or 70% of households, the majority of which are connected by DSL. Some households have cable, but very few have signed up to fibre broadband packages.

"[FTTx] has not started to grow yet. There are a lot of fibres in the ground, [but] still users have not been willing to pay the premium price," Prieur said.

Similarly, while mobile broadband customers are growing in number, average data volumes are not rising dramatically.

Mobile data volumes have doubled in the past year, "mainly driven by new subscribers," Prieur explained. Customers are using an average of 1.88 GB of data each per month, compared with 1.84 GB in the first half of this year and 1.5 GB a year ago.

Assuming similar usage volumes to its ADSL service – which serves half a million homes – Elisa calculates that 3+3+3 configuration HSPA+ base stations will be sufficient to serve mobile broadband users. That would give each user 20 GB of data per month, Prieur explained – significantly above current mobile data usage levels.

Should HSPA be unable to handle data volumes, "we come back to LTE," Prieur said, noting that Elisa acquired a licence to offer LTE in the 2.6-GHz band last year and also has permission to use its existing 1800-MHz spectrum for LTE.

Like many operators, Elisa plans to use LTE to provide 'hotspot' LTE coverage in areas that need it and it has rolled out a pilot LTE network. It sees LTE being ready for a mass rollout in the 1800-MHz band in 2012.

However, "for the coming years, HSPA+ still has potential," Prieur said, adding that coverage, rather than capacity, is often the biggest issue with mobile broadband.

Elisa was the first telco to launch commercial UMTS 900 services in late 2007, supplementing the UMTS services it had already rolled out in the 2.1-GHz band. Offering HSPA in the 900-MHz band allows for greater coverage at lower cost, making it particularly attractive for rural deployments. It also provides better indoor coverage in urban areas.

Looking at quality of service also enables operators to manage network traffic load, Prieur said.

"We protect our premium users," with QoS mechanisms in the RAN, Prieur noted, although he admitted that take-up is not high at around 1% of its customer base.

"We are actively selling it to our business customers," he said. "[But] either we have not been able to sell it or people do not yet need it."

Источник: Total Telecom

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