Erik Hoving, chief strategy, innovation & technology officer for KPN Group in The Netherlands, is opening the conference on Day One of the LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, The Netherlands. In an interview ahead of the show we spoke to him about KPN’s LTE launch and the effect that 4G services will have on consumers and the internet in general.
Where are you with your LTE deployment in the Netherlands?
As part of a valuable packet of spectrum, KPN acquired 800MHz frequencies in the Netherlands in December last year. We have two paired blocks of FDD – 2 x 10MHz. We obtained the license to use the 800 MHz spectrum on 1 January 2013 and we officially launched LTE on 4 February, just six weeks after the end of the auction. We’re in the middle of a huge roll-out scheme in the Netherlands, increasing coverage every week. This summer we expect to have covered half of the Dutch population with 4G. We initially launched in the greater Amsterdam area where the financial centre is.
What handsets did you launch with?
We launched with four handsets – the Nokia 820 and 920 Windows 8 handsets, the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Huawei P1 Ascend. Recently we added the Sony Experia Z, The Samsung Express, the ZTE Grand Era, the HTC One and the Blackberry Z10 to our handset line-up. We also launched with a Samsung tablet and a 4G Mobile Hotspot– a mobile router translating LTE to Wifi.
Are you concerned that there wasn’t an Apple device you could launch with?
The 800 MHz frequency, which will be deployed in 4G networks all over Europe, is not yet supported in Apple’s products. However, we expect that all major handset suppliers will support this frequency on new 4G phones for the European market, next to the 1800MHz and 2600 MHz frequencies.
What speeds are you seeing from your network?
The average speeds that we want to offer to customers on our 4G network are 20 Mbps down and 10Mbs up; we see that we are realising those speeds, and very often reach higher maximum speeds. This is actually so much faster than what we were used to in 2G-3G networks.
What would you say were the biggest technical challenges you faced as you rolled-out the network?
From a technological perspective, the thing that is almost always underestimated moving from 3G to 4G, is the significance of switching to full IP. An IP network is very different from a traditional mobile voice network. It requires different skills with regards to load balancing, to the core network architecture, signalling etc.
Do you think LTE will usher in truly innovative services?
First of all I think that 4G is going to be a unique experience for end-users. Seeing is believing. The customer experience will improve ’hugely’. The quality of your mobile internet experiences is just so much better. This may open up a lot of new opportunities. Things like gaming will become more important, more exciting for customers. Additionally, if you have a strong presence on the business market as we do in the Netherlands, the coverage inside buildings is much better. You’re going to be able to reach much higher internet speeds on tablets when you’re inside a building.
If you want to be a little bit more visionary what I predict is that the internet itself will change. In the past 20 years we went mobile and then we introduced the mobile internet at the end of the 90s but you had to wait so long [for web pages to load] that most didn’t bother. You’re going to see a different internet now as a result of LTE. What we have today is not a mobile internet — it’s mobile access to the internet.
In principle the internet today is designed for fixed [connections]. When you look at most websites, whether you are in your office or at home you get the same website, but what you’re going to see is that the internet access is going to go mobile. If I go to the McDonalds website when I’m walking in Amsterdam I want to experience a different website to when I am at home. LTE will finally allow the internet to go mobile.
What’s your view on TD-LTE as an emerging technology?
Well I think TD-LTE is way bigger than we know in Europe. There are three major companies, China Mobile, Softbank and Bharti Airtel supporting it – and our German unit E-Plus is part of that alliance. TDD is a frequency and a protocol that works very well for data transfer. It’s an extremely interesting protocol to use for data transportation.
What are your favourite gadgets at the moment and what don’t you want to leave the house without?
I will never leave the house without my wallet! Wouldn’t it be great if I would only have to take my mobile phone with me and it would contain everything – my keys, my credit cards, my security cards, my entry cards? We all know it’s possible. With NFC technology, with all the technologies that we have available it’s an application world and it could be developed.
Finally, what continues to excite you about your role?
This industry is very, very interesting. It’s a long-term investment industry. We have to take decisions for three, five, eight years in advance because if you don’t do that you can end up investing in the wrong things and you can invest too early or too late, which can massively impact your profitability in the long run. The LTE roll out for example. We planned long in advance, and that is why we’re so successful now.