TeliaSonera Turns Up Worlds First LTE Network

Verizon Wireless, NTT DoCoMo, take that: Swedish carrier TeliaSonera has beaten you to the punch on deploying the world’s first LTE network.

On Monday the incumbent announced the commercial launch of its LTE network, a few months earlier than the early 2010 target date that was expected.

The 4G mobile broadband network, which is touted as running at 20mbps to 80mbps, is live in Stockholm and Oslo. The base stations are being provided by Ericsson and Huawei, respectively.

“This likely means just a small handful of base stations have been deployed to cover a total of about 450,000 people,” said Phil Solis, analyst with ABI Research, in a brief.

Samsung is providing LTE-only USB modems, but TeliaSonera is providing 3G modems at no charge to account for the small initial 4G footprint. Multimode modems will be available during the second quarter of 2010.

ABI notes that three large cities in Norway and 25 cities in Sweden will be deployed in 2010, with Denmark a possibility for launches in 2010. In total, TeliaSonera’s LTE capex for next year should come in around $70 million.

The carrier will charge $84 per month for 30 GB, but a lower teaser rate without a usage cap will be in effect until next July.

“TeliaSonera’s launch is a significant milestone for LTE networks since it’s the first,” said Philip Solis, practice director at ABI Research. “Today, commercially launched LTE networks now cover fewer than half a million people. This is very tiny today, but we expect that to increase significantly by the end of next year with other early LTE rollouts.”

Those will include Verizon and NTT DoCoMo, who have been jockeying to be the first deployed. But 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.

“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 commercial availability of LTE services will shake up the 4G landscape in the United States particularly, where Clearwire, Comcast, Sprint-Nextel and Time Warner Cable are steadily rolling out WiMAX in major metro areas. They have so far had a time to market advantage vis-a-vis LTE.

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