Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The bees, the Lithuanian hare and the Latvian turtle?

TeliaSonera's regional honcho Kenneth Karlberg, not-quite-yet-not-really-totalled resigned to getting just Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) told me that ultimately, speed is what telecommunications is all about. A truism, considering that all telecom signals move at the speed of light, which is as fast as you can go in this universe, but something more when you talk about the actual speed of information, the throughput and bandwidth. In this respect, there is still a way to go before Einstein dances with Schrödinger's Cat (whatever that means), which is to say that bandwidth (and the content/experience to go with it) are the tools of competition. Karlberg is convinced that LMT can match other operators in speed even if TeliaSonera doesn't get 100 % ownership of fixed network operator Lattelekom. I think he was talking about two kinds of speed -- the speed of deployment, where wireless can beat wireline hands down (you can activate your 3G phone in a shop, but the Lattelekom installer still comes in a few days to install a wire phone and DSL) and the actual speed of the service. Here opinions vary. I am not sure we can blast gigabit metropolitan wireless without frying the crows as they fly by, but I may be wrong. Gigabit to the household by fiber is possible and said to be being done in Japan.
Anyway, even with no deal done on who ultimately owns Lattelekom and how soon the Swedes get all 100 % of LMT, one area where we don't see a race for speed is in deploying HSDPA, the fast mobile internet and data service that matches lower-end DSL speeds (around 3Mbps, some claim 14 Mbps). For one thing, there are no HSDPA phones on the market yet, though a number are coming in 2/2 2006. However, Estonian Mobile Telephone (EMT) has already launched its HSDPA service and Ominitel, a 100 % subsidiary of TeliaSonera, will launch a service in June. Both companies are aiming the HSDPA at business users and offering various laptop cards (which makes sense, considering the HSDPA at its best can be a city-wide and mobile DSL substitute).
LMT at best will do some technical tests or pilot schemes with HSDPA this year, taking the cautious route. It hopes to be the winning turtle (I can't spell tortoise) among the Baltic hares. However, according to my sources, it will be soundly beaten by the Latvian bee (Bite Latvija). I predict the bee will buzz something about HSDPA over the next few days. Watch this space.

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