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Harmonised spectrum will strengthen benefits of the Digital Dividend for mobile broadband
Harmonised spectrum will strengthen benefits of the Digital Dividend for mobile broadband

UMTS Forum welcomes positive steps by regulators in Europe and Asia to capitalise fully on ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity

 

GENEVA, 06 OCTOBER 2009: At ITU Telecom WORLD, the UMTS Forum (www.umts-forum.org) has this week stressed the importance of globally or regionally harmonised spectrum arrangements that will maximise the socio-economic benefits of mobile broadband.

The UMTS Forum endorses the actions of governments and spectrum managers in Europe and Asia that are working towards realizing the once-in-a-generation opportunity of a truly harmonised solution for mobile broadband. These efforts, says the UMTS Forum, represent an ideal model that can be successfully adopted by other administrations to realise the full global vision of the Digital Dividend.

In Europe, administrations have recognised the importance of capitalising on the Digital Dividend. Building on direct contributions and guidance of the UMTS Forum, this has already resulted in harmonisation of the single 2x30MHz FDD band plan. Now, believes the UMTS Forum, there is an opportunity for the European Commission to go further and align with ambitious developments in the Asia-Pacific region.

In Asia, the UMTS Forum has welcomed ongoing discussions within the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) to harmonise a single spectrum band plan from 698 to 806MHz. This initiative, notes the UMTS Forum, marks the first time that a regional organisation has actively acknowledged the need to allocate a large proportion of the Digital Dividend to mobile broadband on a harmonised basis.

“The timely initiative by APT to deliver a harmonised spectrum band plan could become the cornerstone of a globally harmonised band plan for 698-806MHz”, commented UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre-Bienaimé, speaking at ITU Telecom WORLD.

“WRC-07 was a positive first step on the road, where the UMTS Forum was instrumental in recommending harmonisation of frequencies in the UHF band to augment existing spectrum allocations for IMT systems”, continued Bienaimé.

“We now urge other regional administrations to follow the lead of Asia and Europe, and deliver a genuine Digital Dividend that’s spectrally ambitious and globally harmonised.”

Capitalising on the Digital Dividend

The Digital Dividend represents radio frequency spectrum below 1GHz that will be released by the switch from analogue TV broadcasting to more spectrally-efficient digital TV transmission. Already underway in some European regions, this changeover will liberate a significant dividend in frequencies in the UHF band. The UMTS Forum has been a longstanding advocate of the use of this spectrum for mobile applications, notably using UMTS/HSPA mobile broadband networks and their evolution to LTE.

At these lower frequencies, mobile operators can deliver cost-effective, wide area and improved in-building coverage. Thus the Digital Dividend raises a unique opportunity to offer ubiquitous mobile broadband connections at realistic cost.

Towards harmonised global or regional spectrum arrangements

Via the standardisation activities of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3gpp.org), the mobile industry is offered a clear technological roadmap to offer high speed mobile broadband services that complement those in the fixed world.

Through the evolution of today’s 3G/UMTS networks to LTE (Long Term Evolution), operators will soon be able to offer their customers an order-of-magnitude increase in real-world data speeds. Coupled with increases in capacity and the implementation of a flat all-IP networking architecture, this will translate into reduced per-bit carriage costs plus a significantly enhanced user experience for mobile subscribers.

The UMTS Forum has already welcomed the progressive opening of new spectrum bands that offer superior propagation characteristics, delivering improved coverage properties for mobile broadband.

According to recent studies conducted for the EC, the overall economic value of exploiting the Digital Dividend spectrum for mobile broadband may be worth as much as €700 bn over the next 15 years in Europe alone. But despite these technological advances, says the UMTS Forum, this opportunity can only be fully realised with corresponding progress in international spectrum regulation and management.

Across Regions 1, 2 and 3, lower band frequencies are being gradually vacated to ensure the availability of wide channels that are suitable for high capacity mobile broadband networks. However, spectrum fragmentation currently threatens full realisation of the socio-economic benefits of mobile broadband services.

Region 1 has so far released 72 MHz of spectrum below 1GHz for mobile broadband – less that the UMTS Forum’s recommendation at WRC-07 to harmonise at least 100 MHz of frequencies in the UHF band to augment existing allocations of spectrum for IMT systems. The Region 1 allocation currently only extends down to 790 MHz, in contrast with other world regions (Asia Pacific) that have already allocated spectrum down to 698 MHz.

“There is plenty that governments can achieve – such as enhanced TV receiver standards – to ensure more efficient use of UHF frequencies from the Digital Dividend spectrum”, stated Bienaimé. “In the UMTS Forum we welcome exciting developments in RF technology that may open the door in future to a new generation of spectrally efficient radio access systems. However, there is today no substitute for the economies of scale delivered by a globally – or at the very least regionally – harmonised spectrum arrangements”.

Bienaimé also cited recent technological developments, suggesting that future digital HDTV transmission requirements will be more spectrally efficient than those that were assumed around the time of WRC-07: “As long as appropriate measures are in place to safeguard against reciprocal interference between TV and mobile systems, there’s no reason why the needs of broadcasters cannot be adequately served in parallel with those of the mobile community.”

UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre-Bienaimé is a participant at ITU Telecom WORLD in the panel session “Future spectrum needs: supporting a digital transition” (Wednesday, 07th October 2009, 16:30 - 18:00).

ABOUT THE UMTS FORUM

Mobile broadband is changing the way the world communicates. The UMTS Forum helps all players in this dynamic new value chain understand and profit from the opportunities of 3G/UMTS networks and their Long Term Evolution (LTE).

The UMTS Forum participates actively in the work of the ITU, EC, ETSI, 3GPP and CEPT as well as other technical and commercial organisations globally. It also contributes to the timely licensing and deployment of mobile broadband globally through regular dialogue with regulators and responses to public consultations.

The UMTS Forum supports the interests of its membership with a range of studies, reports and other outputs. Principal focus areas include markets trends, mobile broadband services and applications, key growth markets, spectrum & regulation, technology & implementation. A strong promotional voice is maintained via a high-profile presence at conferences, seminars and workshops as well as regular briefings to the media, analysts and other stakeholders.

Membership of the UMTS Forum draws together everyone with an interest in mobile broadband, including network operators, regulators and the manufacturers of network infrastructure and terminal equipment.

For more information:

Chris Solbé
UMTS Forum Press Office
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