March 8 (Bloomberg) -- TeliaSonera AB said it has about 100,000 customers on its faster fourth-generation networks in the Nordic region, giving Sweden’s largest wireless operator a lead over competitors such as Tele2 AB and Telenor ASA.
TeliaSonera began offering 4G in Stockholm and Oslo in December 2009, knowing that devices for users would be slow to arrive, Haakan Dahlstroem, head of mobility services, said in an interview at the company’s Stockholm headquarters. After being late to market with 3G mobile broadband, the provider wanted to signal to business customers that it would invest to have the most advanced network for their laptops and tablets, he said.
“When we took the decision to be early with 4G it was based more on image than on network offload,” Dahlstroem said. “We said we will never be late again and that gives the situation that we have a larger network than if you let the chief financial officer run it.”
Fourth-generation networks offer speeds as much as 10 times faster than third-generation networks, permitting customers to watch movies and access databases without noticeable delays as long as their devices are fast enough. Phone companies are developing such high-speed services to offset declining sales from traditional landline offerings.
“Changes will happen over a long time,” Haakan said. “The majority of terminals on our network are 3G but we still have a lot of 2G out there.” The operator’s first Samsung Electronics Co. 4G handset arrived in stores in Sweden this week and will accelerate uptake, he said without giving a specific forecast.
Competitors Tele2 and Telenor each sell services on the same shared 4G network in Sweden. Tele2 has accumulated about 40,000 4G subscribers since starting its 4G service in November 2010 in Sweden, spokeswoman Pernilla Oldmark said. The company’s most popular 4G product is a home router that creates a WiFi wireless field linked to the network, she said.
Telenor currently has subscriptions in “five figures,” spokesman Andreas Hamrin said. More than 50 percent of the plug-in wireless modems, or dongles, sold during the Christmas season were for 4G, he said. Telenor hasn’t yet introduced a 4G handset. Tele2 offered the Samsung Galaxy S II LTE handset before TeliaSonera.
3 Scandinavia plans to start a 4G service in Sweden by July, spokesman Erik Hornfeldt said by phone. The company probably won’t sell 4G handsets immediately, he said, citing battery-life problems with early models.
TeliaSonera’s 4G network in Sweden covers more than 40 percent of the population and will expand to more than 90 percent by the end of 2013. Customers pay standard monthly charges for medium or large data packages of 249 kronor ($36.63) and 349 kronor, respectively.
The majority of Nordic 4G customers are in Sweden, Dahlstroem said. TeliaSonera also offers 4G in Finland and Denmark, and has very small numbers of 4G customers in the Baltics, he said.
Problems with low data throughput, dropped calls and poor coverage in the Danish network have been remedied, Dahlstroem said. TeliaSonera has 16.5 million wireless customers total in the Nordic and Baltic countries, and 3 million in Spain, where it hasn’t announced a 4G network.
Capabilities for voice calls with 4G are likely to be added in 2013, Dahlstroem said. TeliaSonera is continuing to increase capacity in the 3G network while it expands coverage in the 4G network, he said.
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