With 3G/UMTS confirmed as the world's most popular choice for Third Generation mobile services, The UMTS Forum has underlined the advantages to Brazil of becoming the first country in Latin America to offer 3G/UMTS networks and services.
Speaking at the GSM Brazil Congress in Rio de Janeiro, UMTS Forum chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaim discussed the key issues facing Brazil as it prepares for the successful implementation of 3G/UMTS.
The right time for Brazil
While initial deployment of 3G/UMTS has occurred principally in highly industrialized countries, networks are already being tested in emergent economies such as Estonia and Croatia. With this in mind, Bienaim suggested that Brazil - the first country to allocate spectrum in the IMT-2000 frequency bands in Latin America - is a natural candidate for the next wave of 3G/UMTS deployments.
"2005 could be the right moment for Brazil to deploy 3G/UMTS in a progressive way, primarily in urban areas" he said.
Commenting on 'best practice' for the implementation of 3G in Brazil, Bienaim recommended that Brazil adopts a regulatory framework that can accelerate the introduction of 3G/UMTS while reducing the cost of its introduction. Specifically, the UMTS Forum has warned against aggressive auctions that drive up the cost to end users, advocating instead a policy of reasonable yearly fees on 3G operators revenues, associated with coverage growth and the improvement of service quality.
Bienaim urged Brazil's regulatory authorities to optimise the number of competitors in the market. "An excessive number of operators drives up costs because of the large number of platforms in parallel", he explained, adding that too large a number of competitors also decreases the amount of radio spectrum available per operator, further driving up network costs.
Use of 450MHz for mobile services
With regard to the Public Consultation nr.535 of ANATEL, which has proposed use of the 450MHz band - already assigned to the fixed telephony service - for mobile services, the UMTS Forum chairman indicated that Brazil is already one of the most competitive markets in Latin America, with various trunk radio and mobile operators using different technologies and frequencies.
"It must be evaluated whether new mobile operators using 450MHz would actually improve competition for Brazil" said Bienaim, emphasizing that implementation of new mobile platforms at 450MHz would lead to a fragmentation of the industry and service markets, resulting in growth of the total cost of the mobile project to the country and to the consumer. He also noted that 450MHz networks represent less than 2% of mobile terminals of the world, and thus lack the enormous economies of scale offered by the GSM - 3G/UMTS family.
Bienaim restated UMTS Forum recommendations that 3G services should be deployed in the harmonized frequency bands already defined for IMT-2000. "New frequencies for 3G/UMTS services in rural areas could be studied within the ITU as stated in the WRC 03 resolution 228, typically below 600 MHz", noted Bienaim. "Nevertheless, they will have to be proposed to all operators on a transparent basis and globally harmonized."
The Global Choice
Currently, 119 of the 121 IMT-2000 licenses awarded represent UMTS/WCDMA technology, while eight of the world's ten largest mobile operators have chosen to implement 3G using this technology standard that builds naturally on existing investments in GSM - the world's leading 2G mobile choice that has over 1 billion users globally. 3G/UMTS networks are already deployed by more than 30 operators in almost 20 countries with dozens more in trial or pre-launch, while the total number of 3G/UMTS users already surpasses 6 million globally, representing a growth rate that is significantly higher than that of GSM at its deployment in the early 1990's.
Bienaim emphasized the evolutionary roadmap for 3G/UMTS that will see data transmission speeds increase to over 14Mb/s speeds using HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access). These enhancements will allow operators to offer true "mobile broadband" services such as high quality video on demand, while this offering will be further enhanced by the convergence of 3G/UMTS with complementary technologies including digital TV (DVB) and digital Radio (DAB). Bienaim stressed the importance of choosing standards for digital TV and Radio that are compatible with 3G/UMTS standards, if Brazil wishes to capitalize on the opportunities for providing convergent infotainment services delivered via a single handheld terminal.
Bienaim also stressed that WLAN and WiMAX can represent complementary technologies for Brazil's 3G/UMTS operators. While WiFi gives "hot spot" coverage and WiMAX extends this coverage as a broadband wireless access solution to metropolitan area networks, 3G/UMTS offers wide area coverage with full mobility, integral security and automatic roaming to meet the needs of business users and consumers alike. Depending of the interest of the big 3G mobile operators, "WiFi and WiMAX could be integrated into operators' total 3G/UMTS offerings, and indeed the necessary standardisation work is already in progress", noted Bienaim.