Sweden Racing to an LTE Future

imagesSweden is fast becoming the epicenter of the LTE universe, with three of the country’s four major wireless carriers — Tele2, Telenor and TeliaSonera — racing to build 4G wireless networks. These carriers bought spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band in 2008 and are looking to roll out LTE networks by 2010, according to Wireless Intelligence, a market research service. According to some estimates, mass deployment for LTE will happen around 2012.
TeliaSonera has plans to do a commercial rollout next year starting with Sweden’s capital of Stockholm. Rivals Tele2 and Telenor are jointly building a network with service due to launch by the end of 2010, covering 99 percent of Sweden by 2013. This service will have speeds of up to 80Mb/s in rural areas and up to 150Mb/s in urban areas. 3 Sweden and Intel (s intc) also own spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band but have not announced related plans just yet.
I’ve long been fascinated by the mobile broadband growth in Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden. Nearly 30 percent of Swedish mobile subscribers are using higher-speed versions of 3G wireless broadband. According to Swedish regulator estimates, during the first half of 2008, nearly 4,111 terabytes of data was transferred — or roughly 47MB a day per mobile broadband subscriber, on average — and accounted for $2.3 billion in mobile revenues.
We are beginning to see some of the same trends unfold here in the U.S.. I think that as we start to transition to better networks and better data-oriented wireless devices, we’ll see a big leap in mobile data usage over 3G networks. AT&T (s T) in particular should take note — in addition to promising us an LTE network, they need to upgrade their backhaul networks.
MetroPCS is planning to launch its LTE service next year, and Verizon (s vz) is racing to showcase LTE in a handful of markets later this year, though we have doubts if that will happen.