LTE-to-HSPA hand-off demonstrated, courtesy of ST-Ericsson

Given that LTE in Europe will run alongside, or overlay, existing 3G networks, the need for seamless hand-offs between these different technologies will be crucial to the success of LTE.

In an attempt to reassure operators (having been badly wounded by the saga of 2G to 3G handovers), ST-Ericsson have developed a chipset that they have demonstrated on Ericsson's live trial network in Stockholm, Sweden, switching between LTE and HSPA. The new M710 chip is said by ST-Ericsson to switch between LTE, HSPA, EDGE and basic GPRS as required.

"With multimode devices consumers can enjoy new high-speed mobile broadband services and global coverage right from the launch of LTE services," said Jörgen Lantto, VP and CTO of ST-Ericsson. "Seamless roaming between LTE and today's networks is a key device capability to enable faster introduction of LTE."

However, while the M710 chipset is commercially available now, most observers believe devices capable of LTE hand-offs will not appear until late next year.

The launch of commercial LTE services by TeliaSonera earlier this week--much to the surprise of many--will see early adopters being supplied with a pair of USB dongles for manual switching between the high-speed, but very limited coverage of LTE, and the more-ubiquitous HSPA network. However, the company has committed to provide subscribers with a free upgrade to a multimode dongle when such a device becomes available.

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