Ericsson: HSPA key to LTE transitions
CHICAGO – Just after Kris Rinne finished touting AT&T’s ability to use HSPA to smooth the carrier’s transition to Long Term Evolution, Ericsson’s Ulf Edwaldsson made the same argument yesterday at 4G World: HSPA is the smoothest way to get to LTE.
“HSPA and LTE mobile broadband will do for the Internet what 2G did for voice,” said Edwaldsson, head of product area radio at Ericsson. He cited the network build-out of Australian operator Telstra. “[Telstra] is a tremendous example of technology, opportunity and … a new vision.”
Telstra has aggressively deployed a $1.1 billion HSPA network and is currently in the process of moving to HSPA+. As its network and services head Michael Rocca said during his joint presentation with Edwaldsson, LTE is the obvious next step.
“LTE is not a revolution for our HSPA architecture. We see it as an evolution,” Rocca said. “We see LTE as an overlay to HSPA that will allow us to continue to deliver quality of service and throughput to increasing numbers of people and different applications on our network.”
HSPA is not only an evolutionary step to LTE; it is also a long-term interim technology that will allow Telstra to postpone large-scale LTE deployments.
Its 3G HSPA technologies are already providing peak network downlink speeds of 14.4 Mbps and uplink speeds of 1.9 Mbps. Furthermore, the carrier’s 3G network is positioned to provide peak download rates of 21 Mbps.
Thanks to the capabilities of HSPA, Telstra plans to use LTE only in high-traffic zones and plans to stick with HSPA for the foreseeable future in lower-capacity areas, according to Telstra’s executive director of wireless engineering and operations, Mike Wright, who expounded upon the carrier’s LTE strategy to several news agencies during the Broadband World Forum Europe in France earlier this month.
Even when the time comes to upgrade more areas to 4G, Telstra still doesn’t plan to overlay its entire network with LTE. Doing so would be a massive task: Telstra’s network covers 99 percent of the Australian population and has 5.2 million 3G customers.
Telstra’s 3G network – dubbed the Next G network – is expected to reach speeds of 100 Mbps over the next few years. It is in no hurry to move to 4G when its 3G capabilities are serving them so well.
The same dynamic seems to be playing out at AT&T, where a software upgrade to HSPA 7.2 is working as a stop-gap measure to manage high-bandwidth smartphone traffic while the carrier transitions to LTE. The carrier just announced HSPA 7.2 upgrades  in six major cities: Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami. Upgrades in 25 of the nation’s 30 largest markets will be completed by the end of 2010.
It should be noted that Ericsson’s argument for HSPA doesn’t exactly come from a neutral third party. The infrastructure vendor has a 49 percent market share in HSPA, with 134 out of the 274 HSPA networks currently launched worldwide.
Ultimately, Ericsson finds itself both touting the virtues of 4G mobile broadband while pointing out that HSPA can allow carriers to take their sweet time transitioning to it.
Edwaldsson’s message seemed to amount to this: While HSPA may provide a smooth transition to LTE, there’s no rush for carriers to do a full-scale upgrade.
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