TeliaSonera plans LTE expansion and VoLTE despite iPad snub

The first operator in the world to launch LTE, Sweden's TeliaSonera, is lamenting the fact that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) new LTE-equipped iPad will not support its LTE frequencies, but that isn't keeping the operator from touting a subscriber milestone and aggressive plans for Voice over LTE.

The new iPad is designed to provide LTE access at 700 MHz and 2.1 GHz, frequencies being used for LTE in the United States and Canada but not assigned for LTE in Sweden and other parts of Europe. TeliaSonera became the first operator in the world to launch commercial LTE service when it switched on its networks in Stockholm and Oslo in December 2009 using the 2.6 GHz band.

Apple has said it will sell the new iPad in the Nordic region, but Thomas Jonsson of Telia-Sonera told news agency TT, "We don't know if the model will be sold here or not; we are trying to clarify this with Apple. If it will, then it would work with 3G and Wi-Fi, but not with 4G."

Nonetheless, TeliaSonera is making inroads with LTE, reporting 100,000 customers on its LTE networks in the Nordic region, with the majority in Sweden, and saying it will expand its Swedish LTE network coverage from 40 percent of the population today to more than 90 percent of the population by 2014.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Haakan Dahlstroem, TeliaSonera's head of mobility services, predicted the arrival in stores of TeliaSonera's first LTE handset, the Samsung Galaxy S II, in Sweden last week would accelerate uptake.

Rival operator Tele2 has accumulated about 40,000 LTE subscribers in Sweden, while Telenor would only admit to LTE subscriptions in "five figures," according to Bloomberg. Tele2 and Telenor sell services on a shared LTE network in Sweden that was launched in November 2010.

Dahlstroem told Bloomberg that TeliaSonera is looking to add VoLTE capability in 2013. That puts TeliaSonera's VoLTE time frame in line with that of other leading mobile operators around the world. Deutsche Bank analysts Brian Modoff and Jonathan Goldberg recently issued a brief in which they predict LTE operators "are likely to rollout Voice over LTE services from FY13 onwards, with one smaller carrier starting this year."

In the United States, MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) said it will have at least one VoLTE-compatible handset later this year, while Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) said it will deploy VoLTE nationwide in 2013.

TeliaSonera representatives stated previously that they would base VoLTE on new IMS capabilities that can also bring together VoIP with other rich communication services. Modoff and Goldberg said Tier-1 wireless telcos are more likely to work with a telco IMS specialist, such as Nokia Siemens, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) or Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU), versus a session border controller (SBC) vendor, such as Acme Packet, for implementing the core IMS signaling platforms associated with VoLTE. Those platforms include the P/I/S-CSCF, media gateway, policy control and apps server functions.

Telco IMS specialists "are sharpening their focus on securing IMS awards (often worth hundreds of millions of dollars in products and systems integration) in Tier-1 VoLTE network buildouts. At stake is an attractive billion dollar addressable opportunity for VoLTE network rollouts at the top 25 telcos worldwide, commencing 2013," added the analysts.

Nonetheless, there remain opportunities in VoLTE for SBC vendors. Modoff and Goldberg noted Acme Packet has already cited more than 10 design wins in the VoLTE space, which they believe are mostly with Tier-2 telcos, and two larger carriers.

For more:
- see The Local article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this TeleGeography article

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