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Telekom Austria jumps on Europe’s hybrid LTE/fixed-line bandwagon

Telekom Austria, which has become something of a trailblazer in new technology R&D in recent years, has become the latest to promise hybrid LTE/fixed-line networks for home broadband services.

Its domestic unit, A1, will follow Deutsche Telekom and others in planning to combine fixed and mobile links to boost broadband speeds to 100Mbps in areas which are difficult to reach cost-effectively with fiber, using “hybrid-boost technology”. The firm said it was investing €500m ($553m) this year to extend internet coverage in urban and rural areas.

Natascha Kantauer-Gansch, A1’s chief customer officer consumer, commented: “Austrian households already often use up to six connected devices. With hybrid-boost we are now for the first time offering a smart combination of fixed net internet and 4G/LTE in a single product to meet this demand. This puts A1 in a position to supply 92% of Austrians with fast, future-proof internet.”

The platform for the new service is the A1 Hybrid Box, which combines a broadband modem with WiFi support and an LTE module.

Other companies deploying or trialling similar approaches include Belgium’s Proximus,

Deutsche Telekom-owned Telekom Deutschland, Vodafone Greece and its DT-owned rival Cosmote Greece, Vodafone Spain and Swisscom.

Proximus recently announced it was working with local start-up Tessares on a trial of an LTE/DSL hybrid technology which could lower the cost of connecting the underserved user base by using Multipath TCP. This is an emerging IETF standard which enables TCP sessions to spread out across multiple paths for increased redundancy, and also to increase bit rate over networks where bandwidth is constrained, such as cellular.

Despite not being finally ratified, it has been deployed, most famously by Apple for its Siri voice recognition app on iPhones and iPads, where it improves QoS by minimizing impact of intermittent throughput over individual paths.

Proximus is testing it to bolster fixed line DSL with an extra LTE connection in the home, a practice which could be further enhanced by 5G, reducing the need to invest in fiber-to-the-home everywhere. Long subscriber loops, which usually cannot provide sufficient speed for IPTV services, can be bolstered by adding the two elements together, and LTE can be used as a fallback if broadband fails or slows or has latency issues.

Proximus says it has 92.4% of Belgium households in reach of its upgraded network, VDSL, and it plans to upgrade another 1,000 street cabinets this year. But anyone who is further than 1.6 km from the cabinet will not get full VDSL speeds, hence the LTE augmentation.

Back in January Swisscom offered DSL/LTE bonding, combining the bandwidths of both fixed and mobile networks. That technology allowed for speeds of up to 20 Mbps with higher bandwidths to be tested in later phases. Swisscom was aiming for reaching 85% of all homes with ultra-fast broadband by the end of 2020 using a mix of technologies including vectoring, Fiber to the Street, Fiber to the Building and Fiber to the Home.

Vodafone is trying something similar in Spain, using Huawei equipment to help VDSL when apps burst above their upper limits, citing a top line rate of 200Mbps, but this was for businesses only.

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