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UMTS Forum urges LatAm regulators to speed up release of 700Mhz band

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The UMTS Forum has urged regulators in Latin America to speed up the release of digital dividend spectrum in the 700MHz band to mobile operators.

The open cross sector and independent organisation, which aims to enhance 3G/UMTS services said that speeding up the release of spectrum will bring economies of scale and cost reduction in LTE devices, while also helping operators provide cost-efficient mobile broadband coverage to large parts of the region’s population.

In his keynote address at Futurecom in Rio de Janeiro, UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaimé congratulated the Brazilian Authorities for their decision use newly-liberated digital dividend spectrum for mobile services, following the APT700 band plan.

The Asia Pacific implementation of the ‘digital dividend’ frequency reclaimed from the move to digital TV has already been identified for use in markets covering more than two billion people and the industry bodies are pushing for global adoption in order to facilitate LTE roaming.

Many other countries have already formally adopted this plan that promises appealing economies of scale, spectrum efficiency and flexibility on license process within its contiguous 45+45 MHz, plus near-worldwide roaming opportunities thanks to global harmonisation, the UMTS Forum said.

In September, Australian carrier Telstra and trade bodies the GSMA and GSA launched a major promotion of the APT700 spectrum band for LTE networks.

The propagation characteristics of 700MHz are ideal for rural coverage as well as indoor urban penetration, making the business case for broadscale deployment of LTE service coverage more attractive. But to date the main obstacle has been persuading regulators and operators around the world to agree on common and interoperable frequency allocations—not only to facilitate roaming but to drive economies of scale and the creation of a global ecosystem.

Over the last several years, spectrum in the 700MHz band has been made available around the world through the transition to digital TV, as frequencies previously used for UHF television broadcasts were refarmed and re-auctioned. Indeed, there were high hopes for the harmonisation of the 700MHz band on an international roaming level for LTE, with plans afoot to make use of the same 700MHz spectrum in the US, Asia Pacific and Europe. As it stands, 700MHz is the third most widely used band for LTE deployments after 2.6GHz and 1800MHz (currently the clear leader). But the 700MHz band is actually made up of frequencies from the 600 to the 800 MHz range and each region’s demarcation is slightly different. And as regional plans have developed, it’s becoming clear that any hopes of using 700MHz for roaming internationally will likely be scuppered by fragmentation and disjointed strategies.

However, the APT plan proved attractive enough for many countries in Latin America to adopt. In February Chile’s telecoms regulator, Subtel, outlined plans to auction the 700MHz spectrum band for LTE services, along similar lines to the APT band plan.

Under the Subtel plan, frequencies in the 703MHz-748MHz range for uplink are paired with those in the 758MHz-803MHz band for downlink. With Subtel’s announcement, Chile follows in the footsteps of other nations in Latin America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, and Brazil, which have also opted in to the APT 4G scheme. Brazil’s Minister of Communications, Paulo Bernardo has officially sanctioned the use of the 700MHz band for mobile broadband services, and regulator Anatel has begun formulating how to define and allocate the frequency band for LTE use.

The switch from analogue to digital TV across Latin America will not be completed for a number of years, but Brazil’s government is looking to accelerate plans to switch off analogue signals in some parts of the country to July 2016.

“Regulators can help market actors in the Latin America region by publishing details of their DTV migration plans in good time”, said Bienaimé. He also said that in countries where the digital dividend is now being used for mobile, careful planning and mitigation measures have resulted in far lower problems from interference than had been originally forecast by some observers.

 

The LTE North America conference is taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Click here NOW to download a brochure for the event.


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