Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom have started selling smartphones and tablets with LTE in Germany, as European operators slowly start to expand their offerings beyond modems.

On March 1, Vodafone launched the HTC Velocity 4G, the first LTE (Long Term Evolution) smartphone in Germany, the operator said yesterday at the Cebit trade show.

Vodafone will also start selling a second LTE smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S2 LTE, in the beginning of April. A tablet from Asus and another smartphone from HTC, which will be better than the Velocity 4G, are also on the way, according to Thomas Krause, who is responsible for Vodafone Germany's LTE offerings for enterprises.

Spectrum licences

German operators were among the first to launch commercial LTE services in Europe, but started with rural areas with USB modems, because that was a condition of getting the necessary spectrum licences. But this year they are adding more big cities along with more devices.

A quick informal test, using the Speed Test app, of the Galaxy S II LTE in Vodafone's booth resulted in a download speed of 46.4M bps and an upload speed of 10.8M bps. Vodafone is promising download speeds at up to 50M bps.

The addition of smartphones is important because consumers use smartphones more than USB modems to access the internet, Krause said.

Vodafone also demonstrated telephony and video calls over LTE. But that probably won't arrive until the middle of next year, according to Krause.

UK lagging behind in LTE

Deutsche Telekom is taking a more cautious approach, starting with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 LTE, and then it plans to add at least one smartphone in June, according to a spokesman at the operator.

The news comes as Samsung last month said Tele2 and TeliaSonera would start selling the Galaxy S II LTE in Sweden.

Still, Europe is lagging behind the US when it comes to LTE.

One reason for the lack of phones is that European operators haven't been as aggressive as their American counterparts when it comes to rolling out LTE, Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight, recently said. Also, the auctioning of spectrum has taken much longer in Europe.

Besides Germany and Sweden, commercial LTE services are also available in Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Poland, as of the beginning of January, according to industry organisation GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association).