Softbank awards contracts to NSN and Ericsson for its LTE roll-out
Will be third cellco to switch on FD-LTE services in Japan, NSN also scores in Singapore
Published: 17 April, 2012
Nokia Siemens has won several recent mobile broadband deals in Asia-Pacific, including LTE contracts with Japan's Softbank Mobile and Singapore's StarHub. Ericsson has also won its largest LTE deal in Japan to date, also with Softbank.
The third Japanese cellco has already started rolling out a 4G network using the TDD flavor of LTE, in the 2.5GHz spectrum it acquired from Willcom - a licence which was originally earmarked for an upgrade to the PHS network. Now the third Japanese cellco will add FD-LTE in its 2.1GHz spectrum, chasing market leader DoCoMo's 'Xi' service, which crossed the 2m subscriber mark last month and also runs in the 2.1GHz band.
The smallest mobile operator, eMobile, switched on its first LTE networks in March too, in 1.7GHz, while KDDI's UQ joint venture operates WiMAX in 2.5GHz. That carrier is also buying equipment from NSN, for a CDMA/LTE network, and it will turn on LTE services in 2.1GHz and 800MHz later in the year. eMobile is the only mobile carrier not to have 2.1GHz or sub-1GHz 'platinum band' spectrum.
For Softbank, NSN will provide access networks, microwave backhaul equipment, plus implementation and integration services. On the RAN side, it will supply its Flexi multi-standard network gear, to support LTE and also the expansion of the cellco's HSPA+ services into 900MHz. The new 900MHz licence was awarded last July and will be the basis of a roll-out of 41,000 base stations by 2016, to achieve 99.9% population coverage. To meet this target Softbank has increased its capex budget for the next two fiscal years to ¥1.1 trillion ($13.6bn) from Y1 trillion ($12.4bn).
Ericsson is also a major beneficiary from Softbank's LTE plan, and will build a network covering the major cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya - a network which will eventually cover half the population and account for 70% of voice and data traffic in the country, says the vendor. Ericsson will upgrade Softbank Mobile's packet core network and build a 4G RAN using its RBS 6000 multistandard base stations.
"Softbank is witnessing a major upsurge in subscriber numbers with now over 28m customers," noted Junichi Miyakawa, CTO of Softbank Mobile. "We are committed to providing people with the best mobile internet experience through the launch of 4G, using FDD-LTE, and enhanced, nationwide HSPA+ network coverage."
In Singapore, NSN has beaten Huawei to an LTE contract with StarHub, which will use the 1.8GHz band. NSN was the main GSM supplier to the cellco, and also provided its early 3G equipment before being supplanted by Huawei in 2007. But the GSM incumbency was an important factor in winning back the customer, since StarHub is refarming its 1.8GHz 2G spectrum for its new network. NSN's flexible RAN systems will allow the cellco to enable LTE via a software upgrade, at least on newer base stations, rather than replacing all its equipment.
StarHub says it has freed up 10MHz of its 1.8GHz band and will switch on 4G services before the end of the year. A reference site with GSM and LTE coexistence in 1.8GHz will be valuable to NSN in pitching for future 4G business, as many carriers are planning to adopt this strategy, especially if they have not yet acquired virgin spectrum for LTE.