Edwaldsson: HSPA Key to LTE Transitions, But There’s Lots of Headroom in 3G
CHICAGO—Just after Kris Rinne finished touting AT&T’s ability to use HSPA to smooth the carrier’s transition to LTE, Ericsson’s Ulf Edwaldsson made the same argument: 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, citing the network buildout 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+. At his joint speech with Edwaldsson, Telstra’s Michael Rocca, group managing director Telstra networks and services
“LTE is not a revolution for our HSPA architecture. We see it as an evolution,” Wright says. “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.”
Back at Ericsson, Edwaldsson said economies of scale for chipsets must be reached to advance the HSPA and LTE device ecosystem. “Getting the cost [of chips] down is key to speeding development of LTE,” he said.
Telstra’s HSPA upgrades are likely to allow it 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. Wright 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 with 5.2 million 3G customers.
After all, Telstra’s 3G network – dubbed the Next G network – is expected to reach speeds of 100 Mbps over the next few years. They are in no hurry to move to 4G when their 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, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami. Charlotte, 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.