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Celebrating 15 years of the UMTS Forum

Mobile evolution in action

For a decade and a half, the UMTS Forum has promoted a common vision of the development of 3G/UMTS mobile broadband systems and their evolution.

During this time, the Forum has maintained its unique position as a cross-sector industry body that gives equal voice to mobile network operators, equipment vendors, regulators and other players in the mobile broadband ecosystem.

Since its launch in 1996 at the instigation of the European Commission, The UMTS Forum has supported the interests of its membership with a wide range of more than one hundred reports, studies and white papers plus other outputs.

Over the last fifteen years, the UMTS Forum has maintained a high-profile presence at leading conferences, seminars and workshops organised by commercial organisations and industry peers. Since 1996, the Chairman and officers of the Forum have collectively presented at well over 1,000 events across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Today, the Forum’s principal focus areas include:

·         Supporting the activities of ITU, the European Commission and other international organisations

·         Underpinning standardisation activities of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)

·         Tracking and forecasting mobile broadband market trends

·         Promoting 3G/UMTS uptake in key growth markets

·         Offering counsel to regulators globally on 3G licensing

·         Spectrum arrangements for current and future mobile broadband systems

·         Analysing and commenting on the convergence between mobile broadband and other industries, including consumer electronics and machine-to-machine communications 

The birth of the UMTS Forum anticipated issue of the world’s first 3G licenses – a process that was ultimately to earn trillions of dollars for governments around the world.

In its initial years, the Forum offered guidance to national administrations on the 3G licensing process during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Widely adopted by regulators around the world, this counsel proved instrumental in the creation of a robust framework for operators to offer the first wave of commercial 3G networks.

In 1998, the UMTS Forum was confirmed as the first Market Representation Partner (MRP) in the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) – the organisation that unites telecommunications standards bodies worldwide. Through its close links with 3GPP, the UMTS Forum continues to provide market-focused inputs that directly inform mobile broadband standardisation efforts.

In parallel with its activities to support the 3G licensing and technical standardisation process, the UMTS Forum has sustained an uninterrupted role in identifying and securing adequate radio spectrum for mobile broadband networks. One of the Forum’s most influential activities in this field is its participation at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) organised by the ITU.  Taking place every 3-4 years and informally dubbed the ‘Wireless Olympics’, WRC is a crucial event for everyone with an interest in the global allocation and use of radio spectrum.

In 2000, the UMTS Forum was influential at the WRC-2000 meeting (Istanbul) in securing frequencies in the 2.6 GHz region as the so-called “IMT-2000 extension band”. These frequencies have since been allocated for LTE (Long Term Evolution), and are now being used as operators in Europe, Asia and North America deploy the first wave of LTE networks.

At the same meeting in 2000, the Forum also lobbied to identify spectrum in the C-band and so-called ‘digital dividend’ (liberated by digital TV switchover) for mobile broadband services. This spectrum was subsequently allocated for mobile on a globally harmonised basis at WRC-07 in Geneva, where the UMTS Forum’s detailed mobile traffic and spectrum forecasts were accepted by ITU-R as a key contribution to future spectrum arrangements.

Going forward, the UMTS Forum will again be highly visible at next year’s WRC-12

Fifteen years after its formation, the UMTS Forum continues to promote and shape the adoption and evolution of mobile broadband, plus its increasing synergy with other industries and technologies.

The enduring influence of the UMTS Forum is underlined by well over 750 million customers worldwide whose business and social lives have been enhanced by affordable, widespread access to 3G/UMTS networks, services and devices.