The State of LTE in Europe

Cradlepoint Makes Its Mark at Mobile World Congress), LTE in Europe is not being used nearly as much as it is in the U.S.—with a few notable exceptions.

I spent virtually the entire Mobile World Congress in meetings with Cradlepoint European operators (carriers), direct market resellers (DMRs), distributors, channel partners, potential partners, and customers (as well as US and Canadian carriers). Based on those conversations, I came away with a fairly good sense of the state of LTE across Europe, with the Nordics (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) standing out as a particularly interesting area.

Northern Europe is way ahead of the US in terms of LTE—partly because of their geographic compactness. One way LTE is being used in the Nordics is to create “captive” WiFi portals. An example of this is one municipality has enabled drivers to use their cell phones to pay for parking meters. The municipality deployed Cradlepoint devices to create WiFi hotspot around each meter. Drivers can then log in with their cell phones to pay the meter. In turn, the system sends geo-based ads over the phone to inform the driver about special deals in the immediate area.

This use of captive WiFi portals is growing in popularity in Europe. Like the “free” WiFi you can get in airports, captive portals give you access to a wireless network—in exchange for permission to send you ads or redirect you to websites with coupons, deals, and special messages. (As a countermeasure, some WiFi users create VPN tunnels to protect themselves from this quid pro quo arrangement.)

Portugal is another geographically small and densely populated area that is seeing the rapid rollout of LTE. As with the Nordics, its small footprint means that the operators don’t need a lot of towers to cover the country. This gives the European Operators the chance to use the country as a kind of test bed for their LTE technology.

Southern Europe is another matter. Since there is so little LTE there, the equipment necessary to implement it is still relatively expensive in this region. Add to that the fact that 3G technologies such as High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and its uplink and downlink versions have been available for so long (and fairly well commoditized) that there just isn’t a lot of demand for LTE yet. People in this region are taking a much more “We’ll take a closer look when and if it becomes available” attitude.

Meanwhile in England, LTE is getting a good deal more notice. If you catch the Tube at Heathrow Airport and ride to, say, Paddington Station, you’ll see ads for 4G LTE plastered on the sides of the trains that pass by. Up on the street, you’ll see the ads on taxis. Everywhere you go, British Telecom is pushing LTE.

My understanding is that LTE is just now being rolled out to the general public. But it is being actively, if quietly, embraced by many private and public British entities.

Cradlepoint is currently engaged in a number of trials involving companies who want to install thousands of wireless networking devices for different applications, from branch locations to buses to police cars. We’re optimistic that these trials will further establish our market-leading position in the LTE space and will enable us to continue building a strong presence across Europe.