Trail blazing

Nordic carrier TeliaSonera is no stranger to the limelight, having blazed a trail with its commercial LTE deployments. But the firm has also caused a stir by calling trials of the technology “unnecessary” and claiming that the only differentiator vendors have to compete on is price. recently caught up with Tommy Ljunggren, SVP and head of system development, mobility services at TeliaSonera to get more of his thoughts on 4G.

With commercial networks already running in Sweden and Norway, TeliaSonera is understandably anxious to get the LTE ecosystem moving to clear the end user device bottleneck. To date there are only single mode dongles available, with multimode ones on the horizon and handsets and devices somewhere in the less visible future.

“It’s very exciting to be blazing the trail with LTE but we would very much like to have some pals on the running track because the whole industry needs to move now into LTE,” Ljunggren said. “I’ve launched 2G and 3G and now 4G and the boring thing is that LTE all seems a little bit too easy, we haven’t had many pitfalls, so it’s a promising technology in that sense as it’s simple, easy, and optimised for data. But we need to have some kind of fallback with 2G and 3G and we’ll likely see more voice over LTE via IMS – that’s really where IMS is taking off and voice might be where the application for IMS is.”

TeliaSonera chose Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei as infrastructure suppliers for its LTE deployments, with Ljunggren causing something of a stir by revealing that there is very little, if any, technical difference between vendor offerings.

“We looked at all the technology offerings and all the features on offer by the vendors we evaluated and in the end they were all on a par. So it just came down to price. That was the only selection criteria,” he said.

“Will LTE pay for itself? I don’t know. But it’s easier because there are so many nodes that we have taken away, and its beneficial that we have focused on data only and not complicated it with voice and voice integration with legacy systems and so on.

“Now that we are pioneers we probably got a very good deal on LTE but on the pricing models we need to make some changes. When we did the evaluation of vendor s we looked at total cost of ownership – the software fees to upgrade for speed or renew function – and that can be expensive because you have to pay for each base station several times, which is what we have been doing in 3G. That’s where the pricing model is now and that has to change,” Ljunggren said.

So with the infrastructure in place and the devices on the way, what of the services? Ljunggren is also of the growing belief that flat rate data has had its time in the sun. “We should not run into flat rate pricing model as we did with 3G. For 4G we should bring a new model forward. Perhaps bring in a pricing model according to speed or different classes of service for the users.

“One important role for the operator is to provide a very good bit pipe and make revenues out of that from subscription fees and so on. But then also we have to have good partners that can bring attractive content to the table. I think we’ve gone quite far down that path where we can make good money from the bit pipe part and from the services part, and it’s true that maybe sometimes we choose a bad partner and have to learn from that.”

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