LTE network sharing could sideline smaller operators

With Scandinavia leading the world in LTE network deployments, fears are surfacing that the larger operators in this region are sidelining smaller operators by excluding them from network-sharing agreements.

This concern has been highlighted by industry consultant Bengt Nordström who points to the LTE sharing deal between Tele2 and Telenor, with only TeliaSonera having the scale to go it alone. This leaves 3 without a partner forcing them to provide a service on disadvantageous terms.

"In Sweden, Telia can go on their own, then Tele2 and Telenor are roughly equal in size as the number two and three players and have combined for LTE. I think operators are viewing network sharing as a very strategic opportunity to squeeze competitors out of the market," Nordström said.

While 3 Sweden has a 3G network sharing agreement with Telenor and 3UK with T-Mobile UK, nothing would appear to have happened with regard to extending these agreements to include LTE sharing.

A 3UK spokesman commented that a move to LTE was a natural step up from HSPA, and couldn't see why a move to this technology would alter sharing arrangements it has with other operators.

Nordström said that network sharing was critical for LTE because operators had realised that the business model means it was impossible for all but the biggest operators to go it alone. "It's as much about site, transmission and tower costs as it is the actual equipment costs," Nordström said.

This insight comes after the CEO of Deutsche Telekom, Rene Obermann, said that the company needed to remain open to cooperation on LTE, citing the huge Capex requirements as a reason to share infrastructure.

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