Smartfren ups network capacity; lays out LTE ambitions

22 Jun 2015

Indonesian CDMA operator SmartFren Telecom (Smartfren) is planning to increase network capacity by up to 40% ahead of Ramadan and Eid, to meet an anticipated surge in traffic. The company has around 6,000 CDMA base stations in Java, Bali, Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi and serves twelve million customers with its voice, SMS and mobile internet services, but soon plans to apply for licences to offer Time Division Duplex (TDD) spectrum in the 2300MHz band and Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) in the 850MHz band to deliver 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) services. Further, Smartfren is looking to deploy Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) and Voice-over-Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) to provide high definition (HD) voice calls in the fourth quarter of 2015.

In August 2014 Smartfren revealed plans to invest up to IDR10 trillion (USD751 million) to prepare the ground for a planned 4G network launch and to migrate its 1900MHz band network to 2300MHz, as requested by the country’s government. The statement followed an announcement in June the same year in which Smartfren confirmed plans to issue mandatory convertible bonds worth up to IDR8 trillion to refinance IDR4 trillion of debts that matured in 2014/15, and to finance future operations – one of which is to provide technology for the migration to the 2300MHz band. Up to five companies reportedly submitted bids to carry out the plan, with the migration expected to be completed within two years, allowing Smartfren to launch its 4G LTE services in 2016. Matters progressed in February this year though, when Smartfren appointed Nokia Networks and ZTE to build the new 4G network, based on TD-LTE at 2300MHz and LTE-FDD at 850MHz, with responsibilities split between the two on a geographical basis – i.e. Western and Eastern Indonesia. Smartfren holds 30MHz of 2300MHz spectrum and 10MHz in the lower band, making it the sole Indonesian player with 4G LTE-FDD and TD-LTE spectrum.

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