StarHub switches on gigabit LTE with Nokia

StarHub has signed a multi-year deal with Nokia to deploy software and radio upgrades across its LTE network ahead of 5G, with 4G peak speeds now reaching 1Gbps.

StarHub has announced activating what it called the "first commercially ready" gigabit-speed LTE mobile network in Singapore, as well as enabling narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) capabilities.

The network is available across Marina Bay, the CBD, and high-traffic shopping, transport, and town centre areas, such as Bedok, Bishan, Chinatown, Clarke Quay, Clementi, Orchard Road, and Tampines. StarHub said it would continue expanding it to additional areas in a staged rollout "based on network traffic insights".

According to StarHub, the network upgrade also enables IoT connectivity, with the carrier signing a multi-year agreement with Nokia for the networking giant to continually upgrade its network using small cells, virtualised core and IP routing, and advanced radio access technologies.

Nokia will also provide network management, security, IoT, cloud orchestration and signalling, self-organising network, and session border controller software.

"Amid the growing appetite for mobile data, we are maximising the use of our spectrum assets for customers to enjoy enhanced network speed and service quality before 5G arrives," StarHub CTO Chong Siew Loong said.

"By pushing the boundaries of technology in collaboration with Nokia, we want to bolster Singapore's standing as one of the world's fastest, smartest, and most connected countries."

The gigabit speeds are available to customers with 1Gbps-capable smartphones, including the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, P20, and P20 Pro; Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+; and Sony Xperia XZ2.

StarHub had purchased additional 4G spectrum last year to improve its mobile network, buying 3x 10MHz in the 700MHz band, 1x 10MHz in the 900MHz band, and 4x 5MHz in the 2.5GHz band for SG$349.6 million.

StarHub also trialled 5G during 2017, with tests alongside Huawei in January last year attaining speeds of 35.15Gbps using millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum as well as 64 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM).

StarHub in February announced a slight rise in revenue from SG$2.396 billion in FY16 to SG$2.4 billion in FY17, which it attributed to higher revenues from its enterprise fixed business segment.

Revenue slid in all segments apart from enterprise fixed, where it rose from SG$400 million in FY16 to SG$436.9 million in FY17. Of this, data and internet brought in SG$390.7 million, up from SG$347.2 million thanks to the success of its managed services and cybersecurity solutions; while voice services brought in SG$46.2 million, down from SG$52.8 million.

For the full year, StarHub reported a net profit of SG$249.6 million, down by 26.9 percent from SG$341.4 million, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) of SG$613.9 million, down 11 percent from SG$690.1 million.

Rival telco Singtel similarly announced in February that it had partnered with Ericsson on attaining the world's first LTE peak 1Gbps speed using quad-band frequency-division duplex (FDD)/time-division duplex (TDD) carrier aggregation (CA) solutions.

Singapore's largest mobile telecommunications company said it would proceed with rolling out the technology progressively, beginning with Orchard Road, Raffles Place, Tanjong Pagar, and Clarke Quay.

Ericsson's intelligent Bandwidth-Aware CA technology is being deployed as part of Singtel's network upgrade, enabling smartphones to automatically choose the most efficient spectrum band combination on offer at any time for 20 percent faster speeds on average.

The announcement of the gigabit 4G rollout follows Singtel and Ericsson in December being the first to attain 1.1Gbps across LTE during a trial of licensed-assisted access (LAA) technology.

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