Play readies 150Mbps LTE network as Poland's 4G market starts to take shape

Play's mobile brand, P4, has detailed its rollout plans for LTE, as rival operators lay the foundations for their own 4G services.
Written by Michiel van Blommestein, Contributor

After Polkomtel's 2011 launch, P4 has become the second operator to rollout LTE services in Poland while the country's other operators scramble for a piece of the 4G market.

Play (the company behind the P4 mobile brand and the fourth largest mobile provider by customer numbers) will offer LTE services to customers in 13 cities in Poland by the end of the year, with the rollout beginning in November. Claiming a theoretical maximum downlink of 150Mbps, Play estimates LTE will eventually make up for 25 percent of mobile data subscriptions.

The company had previously said it intended to skip LTE and would instead rollout LTE-A, its higher speed successor.

Play said its network will be extended over time to cover of 70 percent of the Polish population — though gave no figure for when that figure will be reached — using a total of 32,000 base stations. Regions where the network is not available will be served by HSPA+ instead.

A basic LTE-enabled subscription without a phone and 2GB internet will set customers back 50 zlotys, with the LTE portion of the service itself free until the end of 2014.

With the smoke around the recent spectrum auctions beginning to clear and more networks now able to offer 4G, the LTE landscape in Poland is beginning to take shape.

Play won three of the five 5Mhz licences in the 1800Mhz band auctioned off earlier this year, with the other two bought by T-Mobile. Polkomtel, which runs the Plus mobile brand in Poland, already held LTE-compatible spectrum licences and already offers LTE on the 1800MHz band, based on networks operated by companies controlled by Polish TV magnate Zygmunt Solorz-Zak.

The main loser in the auction was former state company TPSA, now controlled by French telco Orange. This week, TPSA signed a network-sharing agreement with T-Mobile's Polish unit, allowing the pair to use each other's 4G LTE infrastructure over the next dozen years. 

Gradually, more Poles are getting access to LTE services. Up until this year, LTE coverage in Poland was mainly limited to the larger urban centres, with around 35 percent of Poles being able to connect. However, Polkomtel last May announced it has extended coverage to around 55 percent, and is aiming for 66 percent in the near future.

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