Vodafone Spain revs up LTE launch to beat rivals

Vodafone Spain is now claiming that it will beat rivals Yoigo and Orange in the race to launch commercial LTE services in the recession-hit country, and said services will be available as of this week.

In the latest move in what has become an almost farcical race to be first past the LTE post, Vodafone Spain said in a statement that its high-speed services will be available to subscribers from May 29 in seven cities: Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, Seville and Valencia.

This puts Vodafone well ahead of Orange, Yoigo and Telefonica in Spain: Orange recently said it would start its LTE services on July 8, just days before Yoigo's target date of July 18. Reuters quoted Spanish newspaper Expansion as saying that Telefonica is negotiating an agreement with Yoigo to use its LTE network because it does not have 1800 MHz frequencies, unlike its rivals. However, the company has not confirmed the reports.

Vodafone Spain said it will utilise its 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum for the services, pending the release of 800 MHz spectrum. It added that LTE services will be included in the Vodafone Red 3, Vodafone Red Pro 3 and Vodafone Red Pro 4 price plans, as well as in the 10 GB internet plans for businesses and individuals. Otherwise, LTE can be added to data plans for an extra €9 a month. Until September 30, LTE services will be free as part of a promotional period.

Vodafone said its LTE network covers 55 per cent of the population of the cities included in the release, especially in urban centres and business. It cited speeds up 150 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload.

Operators across Europe are pinning their hopes on LTE as a way to attract subscribers, and Vodafone Spain will be hoping to benefit from being first to market. The company also said the Apple iPhone 5 will also be supported in Spain soon following an update.

Both Telefonica and Vodafone have been hard hit by churn in Spain, as users switch to cheaper suppliers, such as MVNOs. In March Telefonica's market share fell to 35.6 per cent from 38.6 per cent a year before, while Vodafone's shrank to 25.7 per cent from 28.6 per cent.

The extent of Vodafone's sufferings in Spain was also clearly illustrated in the company's recent full-year results: total write-downs for Spain and Italy for the year reached £7.7 billion.

Meanwhile, in a separate report on LTE rollouts in Europe, Bloomberg reported that Dutch operator KPN is set to complete its LTE network ahead of its original deadline of summer 2014.

 "We are on schedule and getting to 50 per cent coverage and if we can get to 100 per cent before the summer next year, I won't hesitate to do it," Joost Farwerck, managing director of KPN Netherlands, told Bloomberg. "It makes sense to keep up the pace as there's demand, and customers are really excited about 4G."

And in Switzerland, Orange has just rolled out LTE to 10 cities, making it the second operator to roll out high-speed mobile services here after Swisscom, reports ZDNet.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this ZDNet article

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