Thursday, 1 October 2009

Has Telefonica Been Lagging a Little too far Behind with LTE?

Telefonica has become the latest global operator to LTE trials and has has selected six vendors to launch test projects in six different countries in preparation of rolling out LTE-based networks

Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks will represent Europe while Japanese vendor NEC and Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE will fill out the remaining three slots making the selection of vendors quite the East-West mix.

Telefonica isn’t limiting its trials to Europe. In addition to building networks in Spain, the UK, Germany and the Czech Republic, Telefonica will also run trials in Argentina and Brazil, interesting as they have only recently rolled out HSPA and it seemed to most that LTE is still a really long way off. Each vendor will be given a different country and will deploy its e-Node B base stations this year for the six-month testing period. Telefonica also said that the trials won’t necessarily be limited to six vendors or six countries. It will be open to other suppliers, which could leave the door open to players like Fujitsu and Motorola of Telefonica does indeed decide to cast the net wider.

Telefonica has no projected timeline for deploying LTE and in most of its markets doesn’t even own free spectrum. In fact, Telefonica said that the results of the trials will largely inform its LTE rollout strategy rather than the other way around.

Telefonica is certainly not a leader in the the market, an example of this was when it was named and shamed in the UK for not meeting the regulator's requirement of having 80% coverage in the UK. It is more likely that they just want to have a strategy in place for when the handsets and devices are ready (leaving the voice over LTE problem for everyone else to sort out?) This could be years away, or if other operators such as Verizon Wireless continue to push for handsets and devices then this "critical mass" that needs to be reached for the followers in the industry to start deploying LTE, may be sooner than we all think.

The announcements of new devices from LG, Samsung and Nokia has probably made executives at Telefonica sit up and take notice of how the Industry is rallying around LTE - and that their competitors are perhaps a little too far ahead of them than they would like.

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