Vodafone Czech Republic has extended its 900-MHz LTE network to Litomerice, Pilsen, and Liberec. Vodafone aims to extend the network to 300 base stations by year-end, and achieve nationwide coverage by end-2014. To encourage data use, Vodafone is offering discounts on compatible smartphones and tablets.
The 900-MHz band is commonly used for GSM services, with a limited number of UMTS900 deployments. Use of the 900-MHz band for LTE is very rare, with only KTF in Korea using the frequency. As a result the device market for LTE900 is much less rich than other LTE bands, however increasing use of penta-band LTE chipsets in mobile devices continues to grow the available device range. However, the lack of available devices is likely to limit its application to a mobile broadband network initially, primarily for USB dongles. Vodafone is reserving 3 MHz of its 900 MHz allocation for LTE900, giving it theoretical speeds of 20-Mbps, comparable to 3G networks.
IHS believes that Vodafone's use of LTE900 this early in the technology life-cycle has been part of a backup plan, should it failed to have won 800 MHz spectrum in the recent LTE auction. The Czech regulator the CTU had looked to reserve spectrum for new entrants: in the 800-MHz band, the CTU set aside a 2x10-MHz block, while in the 1,800-MHz band a block of 2x15.8-MHz block was also reserved. This ruling led to the likelihood that one of the three existing mobile operators - O2, T-Mobile, or Vodafone - would miss out on valuable spectrum in the sub-1-GHz band. The auction ended on 20 November with no new entrants and all three mobile operators winning 800 MHz allocations, rendering the backup plan less relevant.
In the longer-term, Europe's mobile operators will be looking to to migrate their GSM deployments to LTE as the technology is more efficient per-MHz of spectrum; in this regard Vodafone Czech Republic will gain from starting the transition sooner. Additionally, it will also be able to share the expertise with the rest of the Vodafone Group. IHS expects that Vodafone will now halt any new 3G deployments in the Czech Republic, with new network deployments in small towns and rural areas using a combination of LTE800 and LTE900.