Foreign networks put UK in shade


Swedish network operator TeliaSonera last week confirmed the first phased roll out of its LTE network in Stockholm and Oslo. Hong Kong operator CSL, meanwhile, said it has expanded its LTE trial and expects full commercial launch across Hong Kong by the end of the year.

Both TeliaSonera and CSL demonstrated to Mobile News LTE download speeds of around 100Mbps, and upload speeds of 50Mbps, at their respective headquarters in Stockholm and Hong Kong.

Currently, Vodafone claims download speeds of 14.4Mbps in certain London enclaves, but consumers average download speeds of 3.6Mbps for 3G services in the UK.

CSL chief executive Tarek Robbiati was outspoken about the malaise affecting UK and European operators.

He said: “The UK experience is shocking. You know, I have a home in London and whenever I travel, wherever I travel, I test the speed of networks – in part just to feel good [about CSL’s relative position in the global market]. And I am never disappointed. The UK is not good, Spain is not much better, Italy is okay and France is fairly good.”

In reluctant complement to Hong Kong’s closest market rival, Sweden, which stole a march on CSL with TeliaSonera’s LTE announcement last week, he added: “Sweden is considerably better.”

Meanwhile, TeliaSonera said the kinds of issues faced recently by O2 in the UK and AT&T in the US coping with data burdens on their networks is unthinkable for it, and represent the kinds of problems it faced five years ago.

TeliaSonera senior vice president chief technology officer Lars Klasson said: “We are pioneers for the future of mobile. Our customers have better response times and bigger bandwidth with LTE than on a Wi-Fi public hotspot.

“It’s a very exciting time for us. We are one of the biggest laptop suppliers in many countries we serve in. The more you have on the cloud, the more you want to access it.”

The UK is expected to hold a 4G licence auction in 2012, but must overcome issues with spectrum and investment funds first.

TeliaSonera and CSL serve smaller markets. The former has 5.6 million subscribers in Sweden and 1.6 million in Norway, and the latter has 2.6 million in Hong Kong. CSL is running an IP-based HSPA+ network with download speeds of 21Mbps across Hong Kong.

It is also unique because it is not restricted by regulatory  constraints over spectrum usage like European operators. It has spectrum in four seperate frequency bands, which it can deploy for any transmission technology it chooses.

TeliaSonera said last week its LTE service, which is available only as a data service compatible with USB dongles at present, will be available in 25 cities by the end of the year, and that it will invest €50 million in its roll out in the period. It has 180 LTE base stations in Stockholm and 120 in Oslo. CSL has 40 for its trial in Hong Kong, rising to 60 shortly.

TeliaSonera worked with Ericsson on the build of its LTE network, and CSL engaged Chinese vendor ZTE on a complete restructure of its network.

Ericsson head of northern Europe Mats Granryd said: “The revolution is happening right now.”

It is not happening in the UK yet, it would seem.