SOMEWHAT EARLIER than expected, Telia Sonera has launched its 4G network today in Stockholm, Sweden and Olso, Norway. It’s questionable if this is the first operational 4G network in the world, as some refer to WiMAX as 4G as well. However, Telia Sonera is the first company in the world to launch a consumer ready LTE service and it looks like Finland will follow shortly.
So what’s the big deal here? Well, for starters much faster connection speeds than 3G. In fact, the speeds are even better than most 802.11g WiFi networks, or at least that’s what Telia Sonera claims. As with all wireless technology, the actual speed you get doesn’t reflect the theoretical maximum, but LTE should get quite close to its specified download speeds of “up to” 100Mbit/s, although at least initially Telia Sonera’s network will only support speeds of “up to” 50 Mbit/s, but the company claims that it will be able to hit speeds of “up to” 80Mbit/s during the next phase.
There’s also a lot of “up to” 10 times faster than 3G in the marketing material, but this means very little, as 3G speeds start at 384kbit/s. There’s no word on upload speeds, but the LTE technology can manage upload speeds of “up to” 50Mbit/s. Reading some of the news reports in Sweden doesn’t quite inspire as much confidence from Telia Sonera as its press releases, with Eric Hallberg, the Swedish manager for mobile services at Telia Sonera being quoted saying that “the new technology will offer a speed of between 20 to 80Mbit/s” – the latter at a yet unknown point in time.
Rather unusually, Telia Sonera chose to work with two partners when building its LTE network, as Ericsson was its network partner in Sweden – which seems quite logical as Ericsson is a Swedish company – while the Chinese firm Huawei delivered the Norwegian network. The first LTE modem that Telia Sonera will be offering its customers is from Samsung and at the moment these USB modems are 4G only. New modems that are backwards compatible with 3G are expected during the first half of 2010. Initially Telia Sonera will have only about 1,000 modems that will be split up between Stockholm and Oslo, which seems like an extremely small number to us.
The good news is the cost, as until July 1st 2010 Telia Sonera will offer its LTE service for a mere $0.56 a month in Sweden. Ok, so this is a special offer, but considering that there’s no connection fee, no fee for the modem and only a 12 month contract to sign, this looks like a cracking deal, even at $84 a month after the first six months. But the good news doesn’t end there, as Telia Sonera is keen on getting you connected, so if you don’t own a 3G modem, Telia Sonera will lend you one of those as well. Unbelievably, it gets even better, as you’ll be allowed to trade in your two modems for a multi-modem as soon as they become available. The only caveat that we can see is the monthly cap of 30GB per month, but you won’t be cut off if you exceed this, instead your speed will be reduced to a trickle, at 120Kbit/s.
The Norwegians don’t get quite as good a deal, although if you’re quick and get signed up straight away you end up paying $0.17 for the modem and free access until the end of March 2010. After the initial free period you’ll end up paying $121 a month in Norway for pretty much the same service that’s only $84 in Sweden. However, the Norwegian network appears to be slightly faster, as it claims speeds of “up to” 90Mbit/s. However, it doesn’t seem worth the extra cost for the slight increase in speed.
Telia Sonera is going to extend its LTE network in Sweden to another 25 cities with Gothenburg and Malmö first on the list. At the time of writing, only three other cities in Norway, namely Trondheim, Bergen and Stavanger are on the list to get LTE, although the outlying areas of Oslo are also expected to get coverage during 2010. According to reports in the Swedish media, Ericsson is already in talks with, among others, Leap Wireless in the US about building LTE networks, with the first ones said to be launching during 2010. It’s unknown what speeds will be on offer, but in contrast, Verizon has said that its LTE network will deliver speeds of between 5 and 12Mbit/s, which is hardly impressive. The reason for the slower speed offered by Verizon is said to be due to the fact that Verizon decided to use 10MHz of radio spectrum per channel, while Telia Sonera went with 20MHz per channel, which offers vastly improved performance.S|A
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