E-Plus invests in dual-cell HSDPA for 42Mbps, foregoes LTE for now

E-Plus is upgrading its infrastructure with dual cells, doubling its theoretical maximum speed to 42Mpbs.

E-Plus, one of the four main German mobile operators, has announced a massive upgrade for its HSDPA infrastructure.

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The company announced on Monday it had added dual cells to its network, boosting the theoretical maximum download speed of its HSDPA to 42Mbps. According to E-Plus, 75 percent of its infrastructure will be upgraded by the end of 2013.

E-Plus said rather than improving top speeds for a few customers, it's raising the average throughput for all its users. These customers currently share a maximum of 21Mbps per cell, which the use of dual cells will double.

The dual cell upgrade is in line with E-Plus' German strategy. The operator mainly focuses on the entry and mid-market, where it operates several brands, among them Base (focused on flatrate products), Simyo (focused on 'simple' offerings) as well as Ay Yildiz (focused on the Turkish community living in Germany). In addition, several other virtual operators use E-Plus' infrastructure.

E-Plus, however, does not have a very good reputation among mobile users, who complain mostly about insufficient coverage especially outside of larger cities. This seems to be corroborated by the Connect Netztest, a yearly benchmark of mobile operators by the magazine Connect. Over the last year, E-Plus has been one of the lower-ranked operators. 

What about LTE?

E-Plus is the only provider that did not buy any LTE-compatible spectrum when it was auctioned off in 2010. However, the operator still has the necessary frequencies to pursue 4G: in 2012, E-Plus bought two companies, Clearwire Germany and Inquam Broadband. Both had bought two frequency bands in 2006 which were originally planned to be used for a German implementation of WiMax. The rollout never happened, so these frequencies could theoretically be adapted for LTE.

In addition, E-Plus is working on upgrading several HSPA+ base stations for LTE use. The company started trials around the upgrade process in 2011 and has been building out its network since 2013. However, E-Plus offers no dedicated commercial LTE services to its customers.

E-Plus now has about 24.4 million customers and is the third-largest operator in Germany.

Telefonica (which operates O2, Germanys smallest mobile operator) recently proposed a takeover of E-Plus. Its bid includes €5bn as well as 17.6 percent of the shares in Telefonica Germany. Currently, both E-Plus' shareholders and German regulators have to green light the deal.

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