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Wednesday, 01 June 2011 15:02

Ericsson scores NBN Co wireless contract, with $1.1b potential

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NBN Co has awarded Ericsson a contract to roll out a TD-LTE network to serve the four percent of premises scheduled for wireless coverage in NBN Co's business plan. The initial contract is for 12 months only but could be worth up to $1.1b over 10 years.

According to Ericsson: "Under the ten-year agreement, Ericsson will provide the LTE network, including radio access, core and transmission as well as related services'¦Ericsson will design, build, operate and maintain NBN Co's network end-to-end, including business support systems.

"This includes service activation, management and assurance as well as network performance and capacity management. Ericsson will also provide a wide range of services such as construction, installation, commissioning and learning services. Network operations will transfer from Ericsson to NBN Co after the initial agreement with Ericsson is completed."

NBN Co said: "NBN Co has initially entered into a turnkey arrangement for at least 12 months to enable a fast start to construction and delivery. Over time NBN Co intends to assume greater responsibility for construction and operation of this world-leading infrastructure."

In most of the country the network will operate in 2.3GHz spectrum recently acquired by NBN Co from Austar. Spectrum for WA and the Northern Territory has yet to be obtained.

Although the technology is identical to that used in TD-LTE mobile networks being rolled out in other countries - and will use the same multiservice RB6000 Ericsson base station as Ericsson is supplying for Telstra's FD-LTE rollout - it will be a fixed service operating to fixed external antennas - flat plates about the size of an A4 sheet of paper - mounted on the outside of customers' premises.

The customer premises equipment, dubbed by NBN Co a Network Terminating Device (NTD), will be custom developed by Ericsson to NBN Co specifications. It will have four gigabit ethernet ports, but unlike the NTU for the fibre network it will not have an analogue telephone port.

In FTTH areas NBN Co is taking over responsibility for the Universal Service Obligation and will provide the standard telephone service over fibre, but in wireless and satellite areas the USO remains with Telstra and will continue to be delivered on Telstra copper, or other technology supplied by Telstra.

At the signing of the contract at NBN Co's Sydney office this morning the head of Ericsson ANZ, Sam Saba, said that work would start "this afternoon." The first services are scheduled to be available from the middle of next year, and the entire network to be competed by 2015.

CONTINUED

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McLaren said: "We are going to be announcing our first release wireless sites in the next few weeks. In a very similar situation to what we saw with fibre. - We will pick sites that represent different situations, different geographies.

In addition to the TD-LTE network components Ericsson will build new base station towers as required and supply the microwave backhaul to connect these into NBN Co points of Interconnect. Each tower will have backhaul capacity of 180Mbps.

The service is being touted as offering 12Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream to harmonise with the base offering on the FTTH network and the broadband satellite service. "The applications people see will be as far as possible technology agnostic allowing our service providers to target a national market rather than regional markets," NBN Co CTO Gary McLaren said

However he said that this 12Mbps would not be 12Mbps of uncontended bandwidth available to each user, but the network  would have quality of service. "We are engineering it to have a minimum of 500kbps for each user, but we expect users to get much more'¦We cannot say what until we get into the trials and see how people are using the network."

"The great thing about our wireless network is that we can deliver quality of service," McLaren said. "So online health applications, or a voice service can have a higher priority. That is very new for wireless networks: a lot of the mobile broadband services are best effort only. Our retail service providers will be able to package solutions that are essentially the same across all our networks."

McLaren added: "We are talking about 12Mbps today but we do anticipate over the next few years as we understand the engineering of the network to increase those speeds to get the best possible experience for our customers. There is quite a good roadmap." He told iTWire that these expected gains were independent of the evolution to LTE advanced.

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