TeliaSonera Scores LTE Modems in Bid to Be First

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Telecom operator TeliaSonera has signed a deal for LTE (Long-Term Evolution) modems from Samsung that should help it launch the 4G service commercially in Sweden and Norway in the first half of 2010, it said on Thursday.

The Swedish-Finnish operator is set on being the first in the world to launch LTE services. To achieve that goal, it is opting to use a modem that supports only LTE, simply because that's what's currently available, according to Kenneth Karlberg, president of Mobility Services at TeliaSonera.

"We think that the first-mover advantage is important, and it's also because we know that it takes time to introduce new technologies," said Karlberg.

LTE is expected to be the next major standard in mobile broadband technology, and carriers have begun to convert their networks. Up to fourteen LTE networks are anticipated to be in service by the end of 2010 in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Sweden, according to data from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

Because the Samsung modem is LTE-only, TeliaSonera customers will need to use a second modem -- either built into the computer or a separate USB dongle -- to access the Internet when they are not in an area covered by LTE, which at first will be limited to major cities.

It's too early to say how the hand-off between the two modems will work, according to TeliaSonera. However, the operator expects that users in the inner-city parts of Stockholm and Oslo will be able to move around and surf using just the LTE modem.

TeliaSonera will have enough modems for a commercial launch, but isn't willing to provide exact quantities.

"We are looking at the first deliveries in the world, so there will be a slow build-up," said Karlberg.

The use of an LTE-only modem is a temporary measure. Samsung is working on a modem that will come out next year and support a multitude of mobile broadband technologies, according to YunSang Park, vice president at Samsung's Digital Media & Communications Business R&D center. He wasn't willing to discuss possible LTE modem deals with other operators.

Obtaining a supply of next-generation modems and phones continues to be the biggest challenge when it comes to rolling out new mobile technologies, according to TeliaSonera.

That sentiment was echoed at a panel discussion at ITU Telecom World in Geneva. Operators including AT&T, NTT Docomo and Telefónica voiced concerns about vendors' ability to have modems ready by the end of next year.

TeliaSonera said its LTE launch will happen during first half of 2010, but wouldn't provide a more exact timeframe.

"There are some things to be fixed in the network, still. So I can't be one hundred percent sure when [the launch] can happen," said Karlberg.

The operator is working on securing the speeds, and the stability of the speeds in its LTE network, according to Karlberg.

"We don't want to go live with a network that can't really provide the high speeds we are talking about," said Karlberg, who's aiming for real-world download speeds of up to 80 Mbps.

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