TeliaSonera-owned Yoigo recently claimed it would be the first operator in Spain to launch commercial LTE services, then France Telecom-owned Orange said it would be first, but Vodafone has galloped past them both and snatched the 4G prize with plans to launch tomorrow (29 May).
Vodafone Spain will initially make LTE available in seven cities – Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, Sevilla and Valencia – using equipment and devices running in the 1800MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands.
Within the launch cities, Vodafone says outdoor 4G population coverage will be 55 per cent, extending up to 85 per cent by the end of the summer using around 1,000 LTE base stations. By that time, Vodafone expects 60 per cent in-building coverage within the seven cities.
Although Vodafone says maximum download speeds will be 150Mb/s, and upload speeds will throttle up to 50Mb/s, average speeds – as more network capacity gets used up – are of course likely to be much lower.
For customers already on its higher data tariff plans the LTE service carries no extra cost. For existing Vodafone customers on other smartphone monthly data plans, the service will be charged at an extra €9 per month.
To try and woo customers from other networks, and entice its own customers that have yet to purchase a data tariff, Vodafone is offering the service free as part of a promotional campaign that lasts until 30 September
A few weeks ago, Yoigo said it would be first out of the 4G traps in Spain with plans to launch on 18 July. Orange subsequently claimed it would pip Yoigo to the LTE post with an 8 July launch date.
Telefonica Movistar has yet to announce plans for LTE rollout, although there is some speculation that the operator might be in a postion to launch 4G by October.
All operators will have to wait until 2014, however, before 800MHz – better suited for indoor coverage – is freed up by broadcasters.