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GSM operators group pushes for 3G at 900MHz

Posted: 27 Jun 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3G technology? 900MHz GSM band? GSM operators?

A study made by Ovum Consulting for the GSM Association (GSMA) found that the widespread deployment of 3G mobile networks in the 900MHz and 2100MHz GSM spectrum band could enable an additional 300 million people across Asia, Europe and Africa to get mobile broadband services by 2012.

According to the study, the greater range of radio waves in the lower spectrum band and their ability to provide better coverage in buildings would enable operators to achieve much broader 3G coverage, particularly in rural areas. The consultants stress a 3G network in the 900MHz band would achieve up to 40 percent greater coverage than a 3G network in the 2100MHz band for the same capital expenditure.

Refarming 900/1800MHz spectrum
In light of the findings, the GSMA is calling on regulators and mobile equipment vendors to plan together for the coordinated refarming of 900/1800MHz spectrum, and for the availability of compatible and affordable handsets. The association suggests planning and coordinating in such a global way would give investors the confidence to fund the development of 3G/HSPA networks at both 900MHz and 1800MHz.

In addition, GSMA urges that there should be no differentiation between the different GSM bands to avoid any distortion of competition among GSM operators. The same benefits would also be achieved by refarming 850MHz spectrum, which is widely used in the United States and Latin America.

The cost-effectiveness of 3G at 900MHz would be of particular significance in developing countries, many of which are looking to the HSPA evolution of 3G technology to provide high-speed Internet access in the many regions that lack fixed-line infrastructure.

However, Ovum cautions that the level of success of 3G in the 900MHz band will depend on multiple countries making this spectrum band available in a harmonized way, so that equipment manufacturers have a large market to target and can quickly achieve economies of scale, particularly for handsets.

Government regulation
"National governments need to coordinate their spectrum policies to enable the widespread rollout of HSPA in the 900MHz band," said Tom Phillips, chief government and regulatory affairs officer of the GSMA. "Such coordination would make HSPA at 900MHz a cost-effective way to provide valuable broadband services to the many people untouched by the high-speed Internet revolution that has swept through the developed world."

Ovum forecasts that operators would use 900MHz to provide widespread 3G coverage, supplemented by 3G at 2100MHz in urban "hotspots" that need more capacity. The extensive use of both the 900MHz and the 2100MHz bands for 3G in Asia Pacific countries could lead to 450 million people in the region using 3G by 2012, if all operators chose to deploy 3G and the majority of investment goes into 3G at 900MHz. However, if 3G were restricted to 2100MHz alone, there will be just 200 million people using 3G in the region by 2012.

"As well as requiring lower up-front investments than 3G/HSPA at 2100MHz, a 3G network at 900MHz is more cost-efficient and is better at handling both voice and data traffic, compared to GSM," said Stewart Anderton, principal consultant at Ovum. "But 900MHz is one of the most used spectrum bands in the world and regulators must be careful to avoid interference with existing GSM services or interference across national borders."

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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