TRC says three LTE launches likely by year-end

24 Sep 2012

A source at Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), quoted by the island’s Nation newspaper, has claimed that three mobile operators could launch 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband services by the end of 2012, although there is yet to be an official announcement of new radio frequency licences being made available. The expert cited by the newspaper – a broadband consultant to the TRC – said that the ‘inevitable’ delays to LTE launches had been caused by the regulator needing extra time for determining frequency allocations and ‘other practical regulatory procedures’. With Mobitel and Dialog Axiata known to be the front runners in the race to launch LTE, neither the newspaper nor the regulator’s consultant ventured any speculation on the likely third 4G operator. However, TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database shows that Etisalat Sri Lanka is a likely candidate for an early 4G launch, having completed the rollout of a converged IP network to support LTE in May 2011; Etisalat also claimed a country first earlier this month by launching commercial DC-HSPA+ services. Rival 2G/3G operator Bharti Airtel Lanka’s plans for launching LTE have not been made public yet, but its Indian parent was the first in India to launch an LTE network, using a TDD platform earlier this year, while Hong Kong-owned Hutchison Telecommunications Lanka is less likely to be in the first wave of 4G operators, having only relatively recently (April 2012) introduced 3G services. Meanwhile, according to GlobalComms, Mobitel announced in October 2011 plans for a 1,000 LTE base station rollout, following a successful trial of the technology in May that year and the agreement of an initial 4G equipment contract with ZTE two months later. Rollout agreements with ZTE and Huawei were finalised earlier this month, when Mobitel announced the goal of being South Asia’s first commercial provider of FDD-LTE 4G mobile broadband services, adding that 4G would be available ‘across the island’ by 2014. Its Malaysian-backed rival Dialog in May 2011 launched a pilot 4G network in Colombo and is planning on initial commercial LTE rollouts using the 1800MHz band. All operators are awaiting additional 4G frequency allocations from the TRC.