TeliaSonera, ZTE readies first multimode LTE modem

Products for LTE continue to mature, as more operators launch networks

TeliaSonera will use a modem from ZTE to allow users to access its LTE (Long Term Evolution) network using multiple spectrum bands, and in the process open the door for using the network technology in both cities and rural areas, the operator said on Monday.

The ZTE MF820D can access LTE networks in the 800MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz bands, or use HSPA+ (High-Speed Packet Access). As a last resort, the modem can also fall back on EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution).

The modem is expected to start shipping in July. Pricing has not been announced.

The announcement follows the Swedish auction of spectrum in the 800MHz band, the results of which were announced on Friday. In addition to TeliaSonera, Telenor, Tele2 and Three can now roll out networks in that band.

Telenor is expecting to have modems that can handle LTE on multiple frequency bands ready in the same time frame as TeliaSonera.

TeliaSonera, Telenor and Tele2 are already offering commercial LTE services in the 2.6GHz.

Telenor will use different spectrum bands in the same city at the same time, a spokesman said via e-mail. TeliaSonera, on the other hand, will at first use either 800MHz or 2.6GHz, according to a spokeswoman.

On paper, using both spectrum bands at the same time should offer the best combination of coverage and speed. The 800MHz band's signal propagation provides better indoor coverage, and is also a better fit for expanding LTE coverage to rural areas. However, the operators have more spectrum in the 2.6GHz band, which allows them to offer higher speeds, but it comes at the cost of diminished indoor performance.

But there is still work to be done on expanding the range of networks modems can access. Three recently purchased TDD (Time-Division Duplex) spectrum in the 2.6GHz band from Intel, which it intends to use for LTE.

LTE TDD sends upstream and downstream data using one channel. LTE FDD (Frequency-Division Duplex) sends data over two channels, one for downloading and one for uploading data, and is today the more common of the two. The commercial services in Sweden and the 800MHz band use FDD spectrum.

Since it has both kinds of spectrum, Three wants modems that can handle LTE FDD and TDD at the same time, but that will not arrive until the beginning of next year, it said.

The arrival of modems that can access LTE networks on multiple spectrum bands is also a sign that the technology is maturing. The first modem TeliaSonera announced back in 2009 only supported LTE on one spectrum band. Then, in 2010, it started shipping a modem that could fall back on its 3G network, and now ZTE's modem adds multiple 4G bands.

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