EU invests €18m to support Long Term Evolution of mobile

19 Aug 2009

The European Union has injected a fresh €18m in future ultra high-speed mobile internet technology Long Term Evolution – which is 10 times faster than 3G – and it hopes will replicate the success of GSM mobile technology.

The worldwide success of the GSM standard was achieved through close pan-European collaboration of industry, researchers and regulators. In the 1980s, GSM standardisation was fostered under the European Cooperation in Science and Technology instrument, a fore-runner of today’s EU research programmes.

The European Commission endorsed the GSM project, and in 1987 the European countries agreed on the Commission’s proposal to reserve the 900MHz band for GSM services, paving the way for swift deployment of GSM technology across Europe.

The European Commission today decided to start the process of funding research on Long Term Evolution (LTE) advanced technology, that will offer mobile internet speeds up to a hundred times faster than current 3G networks.

LTE is becoming the industry’s first choice for next generation mobile networks, also thanks to substantial EU research funding since 2004. 25 years ago, Europe already made the GSM standard the backbone of modern mobile telephony.

Based on Europe’s joint research and the strength of the EU’s single market, the GSM standard is today used by 80pc of the world’s mobile networks. LTE promises to be a similar success as EU-funded research continues to bring cutting-edge technology to the daily lives of Europeans.

“With LTE technologies, Europe’s research ‘know-how’ will continue to set the tone for the development of mobile services and devices around the globe, just as we did in the past decades with the GSM standard,” said Viviane Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for Telecoms and Media.

“LTE technologies will turn mobile phones into powerful mobile computers. Millions of new users will get ultra high-speed internet access on their portable devices, wherever they are. This will create tremendous opportunities and plenty of space for growing the digital economy,” Reding said.

Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the latest wireless technology, providing mobile internet speeds of up to 100Mbps, ten times faster than 3G mobile networks.

In Europe, it is currently being trialled by mobile operators in Finland, Germany, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK and is expected to be commercially available in Sweden and Norway in the first half of 2010. Between 2004 and 2007, the EU supported research on optimisation and standardisation of LTE (the WINNER I and II projects, run by a consortium of 41 leading European companies and universities) with € 25 million. This led to the development of the first concept for a LTE-based network infrastructure.

Last month, the European Commission decided to start investing a further €18m into research on the enhanced version of LTE, LTE Advanced. In September, the Commission will start to negotiate the details with project consortia, including the flagship ARTIST4G that builds on the achievements of the WINNER projects and unites 4G industry and researchers from Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The new projects are expected to start in January 2010.

The European Commission sees strong potential in the deployment of LTE and LTE Advanced technology, saying LTE will boost the capacities of network operators, enabling them to provide faster mobile broadband to more users at lower prices, revolutionising Europe’s mobile telecoms market.

It believes LTE Advanced will propel mobile broadband speeds up to 1Gbps (thousand megabits) per second, allowing users on the go to fully benefit from sophisticated online services such as high quality TV or video on demand.

Leading mobile operators and manufacturers around the world such as Orange, TeliaSonera, T-Mobile, AT&T, NTT-DoCoMo, Verizon, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks have already committed to using the LTE standard. By 2013, operators worldwide are expected to invest nearly €6bn (US$8.6bn) in LTE equipment, according to market analysts.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years