UNE EPM launches South America’s first LTE commercial network

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Colombian telecom UNE EPM Telecomunicaciones said it has installed the country’s first antenna signal transmission to LTE commercial operations ahead of schedule. The initial deployment is set for the cities of Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena and Bucaramanga.

Last year, UNE EPM paid U.S. $40.8 million and won 50 MHz of mobile spectrum in the 2.5-2.69 GHz band. At the time, it was estimated that operator would spend about $50 million to roll out the network, offering speeds between 10Mbps and 20Mbps via dongles and plans to initially target urban areas and hot spots.

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The telco providers for its 4G project are the Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer Huawei and the Swedish firm Ericsson. UNE EPM will offer fixed voice, broadband and TV services.

In a statement, UNE EPM President Horacio Velez de Bedout said the launch marks a new milestone in the development of information and communications technology in Colombia.

The UNE EPM deployment is the first LTE commercial network in South America. The long-term evolution technology is in trials in 11 countries, and UNE EPM’s launch was expected in the first quarter of 2012, along with that of Mexico’s Telcel.

The LTE launch is significant because the company offers mobile services through mobile virtual network operators, using Tigo network. Currently, there are three MVNOs in Colombia — UFF, UNE EPM and ETB — but more are expected. UNE EPM was Colombia’s first MVNO operator.

UNE EPM had about 88,000 subscribers in this year’s second quarter, a market share of 3.6%.

In September, UNE EPM and Brazil’s Oi and its subsidiary GlobeNet signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation for possible synergies in the development of ICT projects. The cooperation agreement addresses some issues of common concern such as 4G services, IPTV, technology and telecommunications cooperation, traffic exchange and joint investments, among others.

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