The LTE hits just keep coming: Chunghwa Telecom said this week that it plans to start testing LTE with Ericsson gear, in northern Taiwan. Meanwhile, in Japan, Ericsson customer NTT DoCoMo has started its 4G upgrade. It plans to launch commercially in 2010.
Along with Cisco's recently approved purchase of Starent Networks, these are the latest moves in a market that is rapidly heating up, putting a spotlight on the opportunities for infrastructure vendors. Ericsson has been in the spotlight all week, since Swedish incumbent TeliaSonera launched the first commercial LTE network on Monday, using equipment from Ericsson as well as Huawei.
It’s likely that an infrastructure vendor battle will soon heat up as more trials get underway. Huawei is looking like a big threat to the Tier 1 vendors; it’s signed on to 25 trials and deployments worldwide, it says, including plans to integrate Belgium incumbent Belgacom’s GSM, HSPA and future LTE networks in a converged radio access network and all-IP core. The Chinese vendor will also replace Belgacom’s existing RAN supplier, which happens to be Nokia Siemens Networks.
Also, Telecom Italia said it is working with Huawei for an LTE trial in Turin.
That said, NSN and Alcatel-Lucent are determined to also be a part of the LTE story. NSN recently announced that global operator Telefónica will run a six-month 4G trial in the Czech Republic on NSN’s end-to-end LTE solution. Meanwhile, it also has been tackling the voice-over-LTE goal, and completed successful IMS-compliant voice calls and SMS messaging using 3GPP-standardized LTE equipment, and says it will also soon conduct VoLTE test calls with a fully implemented IMS system.
Not to be outdone, Alcatel-Lucent said that it too has called and texted across standard LTE equipment, but using the interim standard from the 3GPP known as VoLGA.
The first carriers out of the gate after TeliaSonera with the 4G broadband technology – which promises 20mbps to 40mbps in throughput, initially – will likely be Verizon Wireless and NTT DoCoMo. Regional carriers MetroPCS and U.S. Cellular also have plans to deploy LTE next year, along with KDDI in Japan, and Tele2 and Telenor in Europe. AT&T and China Mobile are planning LTE rollouts for 2011. Most incumbents have LTE on their to-do list at some point, making for a rich new vein for infrastructure vendors to mine.
Some markets will be richer than others. "Spectrum availability is the primary factor impacting deployment plans," said senior ABI analyst Nadine Manjaro. "In countries where telecommunications regulators are making appropriate spectrum available, many operators have announced plans to launch LTE. These include the U.S., Sweden, China and others. Where no such spectrum allocations exist, operators are postponing LTE plans." The United Kingdom, surprise surprise, will likely be slower to roll out LTE because of spectrum availability.