Swedish operators take RAN sharing into LTE

Network sharing and outsourcing are the twin keynotes of European operator strategy in 2009, as the carriers look to expand and upgrade their networks to meet rising broadband demand, while reducing costs. The latest move comes from Sweden's Tele2 and Telenor, which has announced plans to create a joint venture to build and run an LTE network, with an ambitious build-out schedule that should see the first commercial services from late 2010.

The 50:50 deal will include the sharing of spectrum in 900MHz and 2.6GHz. The two operators can move more quickly than most of their European counterparts because Sweden has been so early in running its auctions of 2.6GHz mobile broadband licenses - the first to allocate the bands, along with Norway - and has also made quick decisions to allow the refarming of 900MHz GSM spectrum for 3G and 4G.

With most cellcos looking to use these frequencies to extend HSPA coverage to rural areas, the Swedish partners are the first to announce firm plans for an LTE deployment - mirroring Verizon Wireless' US plans to build out LTE in a mixture of 700MHz and higher frequencies, to achieve the optimum rural/urban coverage.

'We are proud that Sweden is one of the first countries in the world with a 4G network for the entire population. For our customers this means improved coverage for voice calls across the country and a network for mobile internet with speeds that will be 10-15 times faster than today. With this partnership, we can ensure a cost-efficient investment and continue to develop affordable offerings while we continue to compete for the customers,' said Niclas Palmstierna, CEO of Tele2 Sweden.

The partners expect 99% of the population to have access to mobile broadband by 2013, at speeds of up to 80Mbps in rural areas and 150Mbps in cities. The roll-out also includes the extension of the GSM network by 30%-50% percent to improve voice coverage and indoor penetration.

See related news: Tele2, Telenor to build joint LTE network in Sweden