SFR upgrades to HSPA+ in 900MHz band, agrees to share with rivals

While the main German operators are discussing the prospect of using each others LTE networks for rural coverage, SFR has agreed to share its forthcoming upgrade to HSPA+ with its rivals, Orange and Bouygues Telecom.

The SFR upgrade, to be supplied by NSN, will be among the first HSPA networks to be built in the 900MHz GSM spectrum, which many European regulators are now agreeing to be refarmed for 3G use.

The deal agreed for Orange and Bouygues Telecom to share the SFR HSPA+ network is being seen as part of the three operators pushing forward with their efforts to provide universal 3G coverage--which will be much helped by the long-range characteristics of the 900MHz frequency.

The operators are thought to have lobbied the French telecoms regulator to use the 900MHz GSM band as against using the traditional higher frequency spectrum that would have necessitated more base stations. Allowing this move to HSPA+, which will offer downstream rates of between 14Mbps and 42Mbps, will enable the three operators to offer rural broadband packages, and assist the government in coming closer to its universal broadband objectives.

Free, the recently licensed fourth 3G operator in France, would seem to have been excluded from this network sharing agreement. Free, which is owned by the telecoms operator Iliad, is currently deploying its network using infrastructure supplied by NSN.

The three-year contract SFR has agreed to with NSN will have the vendor providing network implementation and managed services, as well as modernising SFR's existing GSM network.

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