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European trio win back LTE ground from Huawei

19 ноября 2010

A year ago the LTE industry celebrated the new year with its first commercial roll-out, at TeliaSonera in Sweden. Now the carrier plans are well underway and over 20 networks should be live as we ring in 2011.

Most are strictly confined to major urban centers, and act more as a showcase for the carriers’ cutting edge credentials, and a promise of data services to come, than a broadly available service. But the vendors that shine in these showcases will put themselves in a strong position for the real tide of contracts from 2012, and the battle is intensifying.

When Telia let Huawei into its second LTE project, in Norway, it shook the industry by giving the Chinese challenger a foothold in the Nordic region, the ultimate stronghold of Ericsson and Nokia. This pointed to Huawei riding the 4G wave far earlier than expected, and was followed by a string of trials and wins, not just in the firm’s own traditional strongholds in Asia but in the European 3G heartland.

Recently, though, Huawei has suffered setbacks, notably the implacable opposition of US security agencies to its gaining tier one contracts there - its exclusion from Sprint’s network modernization program, where it had been deemed the frontrunner, also bodes ill for any future prospects at national US carriers (though Huawei does have deals at Clearwire and cableco Cox).

And the next wave of Telia’s LTE expansion, which will take it into Finland and Denmark, also has little space for Huawei and is dominated by Ericsson and Nokia Siemens. Having gone live in parts of Sweden, Norway and Uzbekistan, it will start its Finnish roll-out from next month, using kit from the two local vendors. Marek Hintze, chief of Telia’s mobile operations in Finland, did say the operator was considering using Huawei and ZTE for future expansion. But this may be tactics - given entrenched position of Ericsson and Nokia in their homelands, Telia’s inclusion of the Chinese vendors is regarded by many as a move to keep its core suppliers’ prices low. The operator said, earlier this year, that it saw little differentiation between LTE equipment from the different major vendors, and its decision process was largely based on price.

Nonetheless, investment in LTE will rise steeply next year as the carrier expands coverage beyond major cities, and opens up in Denmark. In Finland alone, Hintze told the Reuters news agency: “It is clear that the total investments next year will be higher,” because the operator will also continue to spend on enhancing its 3G system. Telia will invest about €200m in Finland in year one.

Its Finnish subsidiary, Sonera, is the country’s second largest operator and already has a ‘pre-commercial’ LTE network running in the city of Turku. In Denmark Telia won spectrum earlier this year and aims to go live in some cities in the first half of 2011. Other markets where it will launch 4G services as soon as it has spectrum licenses include the Baltic states of Estonia , Lithuania and Latvia.

Also in Denmark, TDC aims to pip Telia to the post, and has awarded a RAN and core contract for LTE to Ericsson. This is the first time Ericsson has won an LTE deal for both core and radio elements - in some of its flagship wins, like Verizon Wireless and AT&T, other firms will provide the core. Cisco, Nokia Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent had all made strong LTE packet core progress. At TDC, Ericsson will also extend its managed services deal with the operator to include LTE.

With the Scandinavian giants comfortably entrenched in their home region again, what of the other European major, Alcatel-Lucent? ALU, with Ericsson, dominated the first US deals and, fresh from announcing a major expansion of its 3G/4G contract with Verizon Wireless, and a surprise return to profit, the French major is in bullish mood. It is expressing confidence that it will gain a big part of Sprint’s upcoming multibillion dollar network upgrade, now that Huawei has been ruled out, and is also expecting to spearhead 4G deployments in China and India.

In an extensive interview with Dow Jones Newswires, ALU’s president of Asia-Pacific, Rajeev Singh-Molares, said of the Sprint deal: “We are very confident in the superiority of our technology.” ALU and Ericsson are said to be the frontrunners, though Sprint wants their price bids to be reduced. The two vendors have also shared the LTE deals at both Verizon and AT&T.

But many of the biggest 4G opportunities for ALU will be in Asia, Singh-Molares insists. It has already taken part in China Mobile’s trial TD-LTE network for Shanghai Expo, and is confident that it will gain significant Indian business too. Strangely, considering that Japan’s NTT DoCoMo aims to go live with LTE next month, the ALU executive thinks the first LTE deployment in Asia will be in India, during the second quarter of 2011. There is no spectrum for FD-LTE allocated in India yet, though some buyers of 2.3 GHz broadband wireless licenses may opt for the TDD flavor of the technology, as an alternative to the more established WiMAX.

“Where’s first 4G network going to be deployed in Asia? I think probably it’s going to be India… it could also be Japan or Korea, it depends on how trials go,” Singh-Morales said, and added that ALU will also bid for 4G contracts in South Korea. “We have strong commercial relationships with key Korean customers. Korea in many ways is probably one of the most advanced markets in terms of mobile infrastructure,” he commented in the interview.

Also in Asia, ALU has completed a key phase of its LTE trial with SingTel in Singapore, achieving “excellent network stability and very good performance”. The next stage will address advanced features such as data throughput enhancements, VoIP, integration and service continuity between 2G/3G/HSPA and LTE, self-optimizing networks and security.


Источник: 4G Trends

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