TeliaSonera Readies 4G Network As O2 Conducts LTE Trial

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Users in Scandinavia will soon be able to enjoy a 4G mobile broadband service while, in the UK, O2 announced its own LTE trial in Slough

Scandinavia now boasts a 4G mobile broadband network after mobile operator TeliaSonera completed work on two 4G networks in Oslo and Stockholm. Meanwhile in the UK, O2 has announced a LTE (Long Term Evolution) trial in Slough.

TeliaSonera said that it expects the first customers will be able to start using the LTE-based networks in early 2010. That said, as there are currently no LTE handsets available, it will only carry data via a dongle and laptop.

An additional wrinkle has also been added by the fact that customers will need a 4G modem from Samsung, which is not backwards compatible with 3G networks (a combined 3G-4G modem is only expected in the second quarter of next year). Therefore users will need to own a 3G modem as well, for when they leave the 4G coverage zone (i.e. the city centres of both cities).

Unlike 3G networks which are struggling to cope with the strain of carrying data, LTE can offer download speeds of up to 100Mbps (Megabits per second) and upload speeds of 50Mbps, but in reality the technology is still under development. The economic downturn is also thought to have delayed its commercial adoption, as operators instead opt to curb spending on network upgrades in order to preserve cash.

That said, the TeliaSonera announcement means that it will be the first operator to risk a commercial launch. Initially the service is expected to only be available in the cities of Stockholm (Sweden) and Oslo (Norway). However TeliaSonera plans to expand this to 25 Swedish cities and three more Norwegian cities by the end of 2010.

Ericsson is supplying the equipment for the network in Stockholm, whilst Huawei is behind the one in Oslo.

“We are very proud to be the first operator in the world to offer our customers 4G services,” said Kenneth Karlberg, President and Head of Mobility Services at TeliaSonera. “The use of mobile broadband in the Nordic countries is exploding and customers need higher speeds and capacity. This is why we launch 4G services in both Stockholm and Oslo.”

Meanwhile, O2 has revealed that it is trialing LTE in Slough (the headquarters of O2 in the UK) in partnership with Huawei. This follows on from O2’s announcement in November that it would overhaul its much criticised mobile network, promising to spend millions in order to give it ‘significant headroom for mobile data’.

O2 claims a cell peak downlink rate of 150Mbps was measured during the trial.

“We are pleased to collaborate with Huawei on this LTE trial, which will allow us to better understand this emerging technology and prepare us in offering our customers next generation mobile broadband services in the future,” said O2 UK CTO Derek McManus in a statement.

O2 is not the first to trial LTE technology in the UK. Earlier this year Motorola used its UK testing facility to examine progress on its LTE network and assess its ability to help improve broadband roll-out across the country.