Nokia Siemens tests LTE wireless call

The southern German city of Ulm has been known as the home of the world’s tallest cathedral. Now it may be known as the site of the fastest cellular data transmission.

Nokia Siemens Networks said last month it has tested a data-only call using Long Term Evolution wireless products at its development centre in Ulm.

The European joint venture, which manufactures base stations for wireless carriers, claims it made the first LTE call using a commercial base station, its Flexi Multiradio, with software that complies with release 8 of the third generation partnership project’s LTE standard.

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“The setup in Ulm in the R&D centre was a copy of what we will deploy commercially,” said Juha Lappalainen, Nokia Siemens Networks’ head of North America. “We don’t believe that anyone else has done that.”

The announcement was part of an effort to get the attention of carriers, said Ronald Gruia, principal analyst for emerging telecoms at Frost & Sullivan.

“Because the technology itself is fairly new, it’s important to get that early mind share,” Gruia said.

LTE is a standard for high-speed data transmission on wireless networks, and could provide transfer rates of up to 100 Megabits per second (Mbps).

Lappalainen said NSN tested the data capability, but is working on technology that would enable voice calls over IP-based LTE networks.

“Release 8 is more focused on data than on voice,” he said of the software, adding future releases will include quality of service. “In the beginning it will be mainly data that will be transmitted over LTE. That means data dongles that people will use with notebooks and PCs. As the ecosystem develops and matures you will see more traditional types of devices with voice included.”

Gruia said when carriers roll out LTE, they will either use a circuit-switched network for voice calls or Voice over LTE via Generic Access (VoLGA). Several equipment manufacturers, including Ericsson, Nortel, ZTE and Motorola, have formed the VoLGA Forum to promote the technology, which is designed to let users get consistent voice and text messaging services as they go between GSM, UMTS and LTE networks.

LM Ericsson of Sweden is also testing LTE. During a recent tour of its Montreal development centre, Ericsson executives predicted users would get speeds of 5 to 20 Mbps and receivers would be built into cars and homes.

At press time, no Canadian carrier had announced when it plans to offer LTE. In the U.S., Verizon has announced it plans to start LTE trials at 60 Mbps in Seattle and Boston later this year.

NSN is predicting commercial networks will be available next year and says its base stations can be upgraded to LTE by adding software. The company is currently providing equipment for Bell Canada’s High Speed Packet Access network, which it is building with competitor Telus Corp. using hardware from Chinese vendor Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks.

“All Nokia Siemens Networks customers in North America are deploying LTE ready base stations as we speak,” Lappalainen said. “It will be up to them to decide when to turn on the network.”

Gruia predicts Bell will wait to see what Rogers does before deciding when to upgrade to LTE.

“Canadian operators for the most point tend to be smart followers rather than too avant garde,” he said.

Nokia Siemens Networks recently offered to acquire the carrier wireless assets of Nortel Networks Corp. but was outbid in an auction by LM Ericsson of Sweden, which offered to pay US$1.13 billion.