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UHF spectrum needed to secure Latin America’s mobile broadband future, says UMTS Forum
3G mobile industry association the UMTS Forum has urged Latin America to support the international need for additional radio spectrum from today’s UHF television broadcast bands to provide capacity and coverage for future mobile broadband services.

“While mobile penetration is increasing rapidly in Latin America right now, we are anticipating immense growth in demand for high-quality voice and mobile data services in the region over the next decade and beyond – and this demands more spectrum”, commented UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaimé.

“Optimised and enhanced GSM solutions will satisfy demand for affordable voice, text and basic data services in the shorter term”, stated Bienaimé. “Looking further ahead, however, Latin America will increasingly favour UMTS/HSPA to provide cost effective mobile broadband coverage supported by affordable terminals and attractive service pricing.”

In particular, the UMTS Forum is championing the future use of roughly 100 MHz in the part of the UHF frequency band that is currently allocated for broadcast services. These frequencies in the 470-806/862 MHz range, argues the UMTS Forum, are ideally suited to providing wide-area coverage for broadband mobile services to large regions of Latin America where population density is low.

At these frequencies – lower than so-called ‘core band’ band for 3G/UMTS mobile services in the 2100 MHz range – radio propagation is more efficient. Freeing part of this band for mobile services would allow Latin American operators to reduce the number of cellular base stations required to provide rural coverage of mobile broadband services.

Alongside other developing regions, believes the UMTS Forum, Latin America represents a huge potential market for mobile broadband services. Meeting this demand most effectively, however, demands a harmonised technological and regulatory framework that builds on proven standards and is optimised for the demands of the Latin American economy. “We need mobile communication solutions that are accessible to customers with limited incomes”, added Bienaimé. “To make this happen, industry has a major role to play in co-ordinating its actions within the framework of the ITU.”

“Collectively we need to ensure that sufficient globally harmonised spectrum is available to meet long-term growth in demand for mobile broadband services”, continued Bienaimé. “We need the strong commitment of all industry players at WRC-07* to achieve the goal of identifying sufficient and suitable spectrum for IMT for future capacity and coverage applications of mobile systems.

“We support a harmonised sub-band of around 100 MHz for UMTS/IMT-2000 in the UHF 470-806/862 MHz range. Co-ordinating our efforts now will ensure that these frequencies become available after 2010.

“It’s vital that industry and administrations work together to reduce the ‘digital divide’ that still deprives billions of people globally from access to high-quality, dependable voice and data communications”, continued Bienaimé. “Positive decisions made at WRC-07 will play a fundamental role in reducing this divide.”

*The UMTS Forum at WRC-07
Convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and held in Geneva from 22 October – 16 November 2007, the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07) is a landmark event for the global telecoms industry. Decision made at this meeting will shape future radio spectrum usage for radiocommunication services.

Agenda Item 1.4 is of exceptional interest to the UMTS Forum at WRC-07. This item will “consider frequency-related matters for the future development of IMT-2000 and systems beyond IMT-2000 taking into account the results of ITU-R studies in accordance with Resolution 228 (Rev.WRC-03)”.

Agenda Item 1.4 refers to the extended UMTS/IMT-2000 coverage needs in the bands below those already identified for IMT-2000 (Resolution 228). It also refers to capacity needs for advanced high-bit rate services in the bands below 5GHz to accommodate the future evolutions of UMTS/IMT-2000 and IMT-Advanced.

This Agenda Item is of major importance for the UMTS Forum and offers a unique opportunity to identify additional spectrum for mobile. In addition to frequencies within the band 470-806/862 MHz, the UMTS Forum is also advocating the identification of frequencies below 5GHz to support extremely high data-rate services referred to as ‘IMT-Advanced’.

WRC-07 is the right time to identify the new spectrum for IMT to enable IMT-Advanced deployment in the timeframe of years 2015-2020. For WRC decisions, it has typically taken about a decade, between the time when the spectrum is identified and when it is made available/licensed. Mobile market growth continues to be strong in terms of subscribers, traffic, coverage, usage of current services and of development of new services. More spectrum will be needed for the very high-data rate IMT-Advanced services as a response to increased traffic.

The UMTS Forum supports the spectrum requirement of 1720 MHz for mobile communications by year 2020 in Europe and in some other countries, including the existing IMT-2000 spectrum. The required new spectrum amount is about 1 GHz. This value is based on the “higher market setting” as detailed in Report ITU-R M.2078, and is also supported by the UMTS Forum’s own studies on future spectrum requirement. Therefore the UMTS Forum supports the identification of the band 3.4 – 4.2 GHz and 4.4 - 4.99 GHz for IMT at WRC-07. It will provide flexibility in the implementation of IMT for those countries, where parts of band 4.4 – 4.99 GHz are used for other services.

The UMTS Forum urges Latin American administrations to contribute to find an appropriate solution at WRC-07 to fulfil this estimated spectrum demand.

3G/UMTS and HSPA – the growing global success of mobile broadband
There are currently more than 180 million 3G mobile broadband customers worldwide. Of this total, approaching 120 million are subscribers to 3G/UMTS and 3G/HSPA networks based on WCDMA radio technology.

Western Europe is currently the world’s largest market for 3G/UMTS and HSPA, representing approximately 49% of global connections. It is followed by Asia Pacific with approximately 45% of the global connections total. [Subscriber figures provided by Wireless Intelligence].

More than 180 WCDMA networks are operating commercially in approximately 80 countries. In addition, over 100 HSPA networks are already commercialised in more than 50 counties. Building on the 3G/UMTS experience, HSPA offers mobile subscribers high data rates comparable to fixed broadband connections, together with reduced latency to deliver a more responsive customer experience. HSPA thus enables a wide variety of mobile broadband services.

Operators deploying HSPA benefit from even more efficient use of their allocated radio spectrum coupled with lower traffic costs. Over 250 HSPA terminal devices have already been announced or introduced (handsets + PC data cards), out of a total of more than 900 WCDMA devices.