4G evolution continues to gain traction with Hong Kong operator CSL demonstrating its progress in the deployment of what it claims is the world’s first Dual Cell HSPA+/LTE network.
In July 2010, CSL and Chinese equipment vendor ZTE announced the deployment of the world’s first commercial 1800MHz/2600 MHz dual-band LTE network and the upgrade of CSL’s entire 3G network to the Dual Cell technology with peak speeds of 42Mbps.
Telecoms.com met Tarek Robbiati, chief executive of CSL, earlier this year, shortly after his appointment to head of Telstra International. When Robbiati joined the Hong Kong operator in 2006 he discontinued CSL’s long standing relationship with Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) and ripped out all of the legacy NSN supplied infrastructure, replacing it with an all-IP 3G platform provided by ZTE.
What CSL ended up with, according to Robbiati, is “a data network optimised for voice, not a voice network sub-optimised for data. It’s an important distinction to make because, prior to this, 3G networks were effectively voice networks operating in 2100MHz – they over-promised and under-delivered.” Robbiati admitted that CSL was “lucky” with the timing of the 4G licence auction in Hong Kong in January 2009, winning 2.6GHz of 4G spectrum and ending up with more than twice the amount of spectrum (127MHz) than its closest competitors, giving it a network with great potential.
This week CSL demonstrated its Dual Cell LTE service with pre-commercial USB modems running various multimedia applications, including file download/upload, internet browsing, HD video download and streaming.
“CSL’s data traffic has increased by 40 times since the launch of its next generation network in March 2009, it is clear that there is a strong need for LTE in Hong Kong to continue to provide a superior customer experience,” said Christian Daigneault, chief technology officer at CSL.
In the interview with Robbiati, the CSL exec admits that the company is, “No longer a mobile operator.” It is also an ISP and a services provider that handles lots of M2M communications. So with the growing threats from players such as Google, Robbiati acknowledges that the disintermediation risk on network providers is very real. “So how do we address it? We can’t stand still, we have to add intelligence to network. There are a lot of things you can do, like platform services that have applications, and services in the cloud are also very interesting.” So for CSL, the future will be all about the services. “We’ve done all the hard work on the infrastructure already so now we can concentrate on the services,” Robbiati says.
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