Sweden's Hi3G ups ante in LTE game with dual-mode TDD/FDD network

Lynnette LunaSweden's Hi3G just upped the ante in the LTE game as it faces stiff LTE competition in Sweden. The operator is working with ZTE to bring to market in Sweden and Denmark what they call the world's first dual-mode LTE networks that will incorporate both FDD and TDD flavors of LTE and provide data speeds of up to 100 Mbps, much faster than what LTE rivals in Sweden are offering.

Hi3G owns a whopping 50 MHz of TDD (Time Division Duplex) spectrum in Sweden and 25 MHz of TDD spectrum in Denmark. Most operators in Europe are sitting on a significant amount of vacant TDD spectrum that was attached to their 3G licenses when they acquired them. Unpaired spectrum wasn't useful then, but it certainly is now in the mobile broadband world.

By launching two versions of LTE--the TDD and FDD (Frequency Division Duplex)--Hi3G should be able to maximize data throughput because data traffic benefits from the asymmetric TDD spectrum since operators can allocate more bandwidth to the downlink. Hi3G said it expects to develop its Swedish and Danish LTE networks during 2011.

The ZTE equipment will be based upon its Uni-RAN Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology, which will enable Hi3G to support a variety of mobile standards and frequency bands. The radio technology should also enable Hi3G to upgrade this new base station technology by downloading software updates. Moreover, ZTE will supply additional 3G equipment for the operator's 900 MHz and 2.1 GHz existing network, together with the dual-mode LTE network, because of the low cost of ownership and the ability to include three different mobile standards in the same infrastructure.

Poland's mobile broadband operator Aero2, however, may be the first to deploy a commercial LTE network using TDD spectrum. In November, the operator awarded Huawei a frame contract to deploy the network. Huawei will supply the end-to-end LTE TDD/EPC (Evolved Packet Core) solution, and the network is expected to offer commercial services this year.

Aero2 has already deployed the FDD version of LTE in the 1800 MHz band, a market first, and the TD-LTE deployment will happen in the 2.5 GHz and 900 MHz bands.

China Mobile, of course, is the most well-known TD-LTE advocate. The largest mobile operator in the world in terms of subscribers has been heavily pushing the commercialization of TD-LTE, and has been reaching out to overseas operators in Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Australia. China Mobile recently chose Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) to participate in the operator's TD-LTE trial.

E-Plus in Germany recently announced it will launch a TD-LTE field trial in Germany in the first quarter. The trial is based on 2.6 GHz spectrum that E-Plus acquired in the German spectrum auction. China Mobile is providing technical support to the trial, while ZTE will provide base stations.

While TD-LTE is evolving rather quickly, almost on par with FDD development, it will be indeed interesting to see what sort of competitive difference a TDD/FDD network will make in Sweden, where TeliaSonera was the first in the world to introduce LTE services. Tele2 and Telenor launched their own LTE services in Sweden a year later via Net4Mobility, and now cover five major cities. I suspect a number of operators from around the world will be watching.--Lynnette