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Tiscali joins trend to deploy LTE in 3.5 GHz

Having acquired former WiMAX operator Aria, it has contracted with Huawei for national fixed wireless LTE network

The 3.5 GHz band has a newly high profile thanks to the US’s innovative three-tier CBRS(Citizens Broadband Radio Services) scheme. But in many other parts of the world, 3.5 GHz has long been open and established as wireless broadband spectrum (usually fixed, but increasingly regulators are allowing mobility).

Huawei has signed a deal to deliver TD-LTE equipment for this band to Italian ISP Tiscali. This is one of a small set of LTE deployments in the unpaired band to date (UK Broadband in the UK is another), but these are expected to gather pace as operators look more favourably on unpaired and higher frequency spectrum than they used to do – both characteristics being good for increasing capacity, the key priority for many carriers as they complete their 4G coverage projects and start to worry about massive bandwidth, indoor small cells, and even fixed wireless (as Verizon and AT&T are doing in their first 5G trials, in even higher bands at 28 GHz).

Huawei said last week that it was ready to supply CBRS equipment in the US because it had put considerable development into TD-LTE for this band elsewhere, and the tweaks will be minimal – the same will be true of ZTE, which has also been very active in 3.5 GHz LTE.

Many of the deployments will be migrations from WiMAX, which was commonly rolled out in 3.5 GHz. Tiscali itself has signed its €40m ($45m) contract with Huawei after acquiring former WiMAX operator Aria, which had already signalled its intention to shift to TD-LTE. As WiMAX ISPs make that move, larger providers, and even MNOs, are likely to pounce.

Tiscali says it plans to launch fixed wireless services based on TD-LTE in the fourth quarter, with speeds of up to 100Mbps, rising to 1Gbps over time. It aims to deploy the network throughout Italy with a target of serving 13m households and businesses, particularly in areas where broadband coverage is poor. The agreement with Huawei covers the supply both of core and radio equipment and CPE.

The Global Mobile suppliers Association (GSA) says that 78 operators have commercially launched TD-LTE, in 46 countries. Band 40 (2.3 GHz) is the most widely used spectrum, the basis of 40% of current TD-LTE networks. The GSA noted that the 3.5 GHz ecosystem (bands 42 or 43) continues to grow, and 82 user terminals are now available in this band. Bands 40 (2.3 GHz) and 38 (2.6 GHz) have the most mature ecosystems followed by bands 41 and 39. Finally, it said that 23 operators have deployed both FDD and TDD modes in their networks.

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