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Geneva agreement opens door to use of 'digital dividend' for 3G/UMTS

The UMTS Forum has welcomed results from this year's ITU-R Regional Radiocommunications Conference (RRC-06) that pave the way for the introduction of 3G/UMTS mobile services in frequencies that will potentially be freed up by the "analogue switch-off" of terrestrial television broadcasting.

The new digital broadcasting plan - agreed to by ITU Region 1 countries as well as Iran at the month-long meeting held in Geneva from 15th May to 16th June - offers the possibility for national administrations to introduce new digital services in the bands 174-230 MHz (VHF) and 470-862 MHz (UHF). While dates when these frequencies could become available for non-TV services vary by country, analogue switch-off in UHF bands will be completed in Region 1 and Iran by 2015.

The UMTS Forum has already identified the suitability of lower frequencies in the sub-1GHz range as ideal candidates for providing additional 3G/UMTS coverage. In its Report No. 38 "Coverage Extension Bands for UMTS/IMT-2000 in the bands between 470-600 MHz", the UMTS Forum has demonstrated how these frequencies represent a highly cost-effective option in regions of low population density, as radio propagation characteristics in this band permit wide-area coverage with a lower cell site density.

"This encouraging result from Geneva is a positive step towards the successful exploitation of the 'digital dividend' that will be delivered by analogue switch-off", says UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaim.

"By opening up the possibility of introducing non-broadcast services in these VHF and UHF bands, mobile industry is encouraged to continue its lobbying efforts to ensure fair, equitable use of this additional spectrum resource. With global demand for high bit-rate mobile multimedia services set to increase dramatically over the next decade, it's vital that sufficient spectrum is set aside in a timely fashion to meet customers' long-term needs."