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StarHub refarming 2G spectrum for LTE

Singapore telco says it will be repurposing its 2G 1800MHz spectrum for 4G services and has chosen Nokia Siemens Network for the project.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Singapore mobile operator StarHub will be working with Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) to refarm its 2G 1800MHz spectrum for 4G long-term evolution (LTE), and says will be the first to do so in Southeast Asia.

In an e-mail to ZDNet Asia, Neil Montefiore, CEO of StarHub, noted that the repurposing of GSM spectrum for LTE will not affect its current 2G service for its mobile customer. Asked if the process will be complicated, he said the refarming of 1800MHz spectrum from GSM to LTE will require special software and hardware as well as careful planning.

With the refarming, StarHub end-users will be able to enjoy better coverage and a better mobile Internet experience, Montefiore said.

In a joint statement Tuesday, Paul Tyler, head of Asia-Pacific region at NSN, said: "With spectrum being a scarce resource, it needs to be optimally utilised. The increasing use of smartphones and data hungry applications is putting a huge pressure on existing spectrum making refarming a viable option for operators. By allocating existing GSM spectrum to LTE, StarHub can cost-efficiently offer 4G mobile broadband services to its customers."

StarHub's LTE network is expected to go live by the end of 2012 to cover business areas such as Changi Airport, Marina Bay, Suntec and Shenton Way, said the company in the statement. It is the last of the three mobile operators in Singapore to launch 4G service as M1 and Singtel respectively started their LTE networks in June and December 2011.

According to Montefiore, the company chose to work with NSN after discussion and trial tests with various vendors. While he declined to share the value of the contract, he noted that the company did not launch a tender as it knew the relative strengths of the various vendors and how each could help in the mobile revamp.

StarHub decided to go with NSN because of its technology and "good price", he said. He also noted that NSN was the incumbent vendor of StarHub's 2G service so the vendor provided the "lowest risk option" to run both 2G and LTE on the same 1800MHz band. "NSN also allows us to launch LTE faster than if we were to go with any other vendor," he added.

Singapore's ICT regulator announced Tuesday its plans to auction spectrum for 4G services. Commenting on the auction, Montefiore said operators now want more spectrum because of the "exponential growth" in mobile data. "[The auction] will complement our network modernization project and we will be able to offer larger mobile bandwidth to an even bigger pool of customers," he said.

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