Monday 8 December 2008

No LTE networks in UK before 2011

According to, any rollout of a next generation mobile network in the UK is still years away, says telecoms kit maker Ericsson's UK CTO John Cunliffe.

"I would say probably the end of 2010 at the very earliest," he told "Networks will be ready for rolling out - shipping in commercial quantities - next year and then the devices, we think, will start to come in 2010," he added.

Cunliffe would not give an estimate on how much a commercial rollout of LTE in the UK might cost. "People need to do more modelling around rollout costs," he said. "It's a new equation."
However, he claimed operators switching to LTE would reap the benefits of "total lower capex and lower opex" - provided they are willing to stump up the infrastructure cash.

However Cunliffe highlighted that any large-scale deployment of rival 4G technology WiMax would also require similar investment in infrastructure to that of an LTE deployment. "If you think about WiMax starting off as essentially a radio you need a much bigger ecosystem around it," he said.

"By the time you actually deliver a service, the operators still have to pay for the infrastructure that goes around it and they've still got their opex - their people costs and so on - so the WiMax piece - the radio piece - is actually a small piece of the equation. In terms of the maturity of the 3GPP ecosystem, it's well ahead of where WiMax is."

"The fastest being deployed in the UK at the moment is 7.2Mbps but our roadmap continues until 42Mbps. We can even see that it may be possible for the technology to reach as much as 80Mbps…so there is certainly a lot of mileage in HSPA…People maybe think that we've got to have LTE to get to the higher speeds but HSPA will go a long way before we need to get to LTE speeds."

Cunliffe added the top speed of LTE currently being demoed by Ericsson in lab conditions is 160Mbps and a drive test has reached a maximum of 154Mbps, with an average of 78Mbps.

What are the biggest hurdles to a UK LTE network being rolled out? Cunliffe believes they are timing - when operators will switch, especially those with significant investment in HSPA - as well as the inexorable issue of ROI: "Obviously there will be questions about return on investment," he concluded.

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