An unconfirmed report from online news portal IndoTelko suggests that Telekom PT Smartfren, the Indonesian CDMA operator looking to migrate to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technologies, has secured an Operations Feasibility Test (ULO) authorisation to offer services in the ‘CDMA-850’ band (824MHz-893MHz spectrum) – a prerequisite if it is to proceed with a full commercial 4G launch. However, IndoTelko issued a caveat stating that even if it has been issued with the ULO, it is still unclear when Smartfren could be ready to put the plan into action. An unnamed source with knowledge of the situation claims that the carrier received the go-ahead from the Indonesian Telecommunication Regulatory Body (BRTI) at the end of last month, but is currently waiting for frequencies in the 2300MHz band to be released before it can launch its new dual-band (i.e. 800MHz/2300MHz) service.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database writes that in August 2014 Smartfren revealed plans to invest up to IDR10 trillion (USD751 million) to prepare the ground for a planned 4G network launch and to migrate its 1900MHz band network to 2300MHz, as requested by the country’s government. The statement followed an announcement in June the same year in which Smartfren confirmed plans to issue mandatory convertible bonds worth up to IDR8 trillion to refinance IDR4 trillion of debts that mature in 2014/15, and to finance future operations – one of which is to provide technology for the migration to the 2300MHz band. Up to five companies reportedly submitted bids to carry out the plan, with the migration expected to be completed within two years, allowing Smartfren to launch its 4G LTE services in 2016. Matters progressed in February this year though, when Smartfren appointed Nokia Networks and ZTE to build the new 4G network, based on Time Division Duplexing LTE (TD-LTE) at 2300MHz and LTE-FDD at 800MHz, with responsibilities split between the two on a geographical basis – i.e. Western and Eastern Indonesia. Smartfren holds 30MHz of 2300MHz spectrum and 10MHz in the 800MHz band, making it the sole Indonesian player with 4G LTE-FDD and TD-LTE spectrum.
If the rumours of Smartfren’s ULO prove accurate, it could bode well for the smooth licensing of 850MHz frequencies for rival players Telkomsel and Indosat.