GSM Association Calls for More 3G in the GSM Spectrum Bands

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The widespread deployment of 3G networks in the 900MHz GSM spectrum band as well as the 2100MHz band could enable an additional 300 million people across Asia Europe and Africa to enjoy mobile broadband services by 2012 according to a study by the analyst and consulting company Ovum for the GSM Association.

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 study shows that a 3G network in the 900MHz band would achieve up to 40% greater coverage than a 3G network in the 2100MHz band for the same capital expenditure.

The cost-effectiveness of 3G at 900MHz would be of particular significance in developing countries, many of which are looking to HSPA, an evolution of the leading 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 harmonised way, so that equipment manufacturers have a large market to target and can quickly achieve economies of scale, particularly for handsets.

"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 envisages that operators would use 900MHz to provide widespread 3G coverage, supplemented by 3G at 2100MHz in urban 'hot-spots' 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. If 3G were restricted to 2100MHz alone, Ovum forecasts there will be just 200 million people using 3G in the region by 2012.

In light of these findings, the GSMA urges regulators, together with vendors, to plan together for the coordinated refarming of 900/1800MHz spectrum, which is widely used for GSM in Europe, Asia and Africa, and for the availability of compatible and affordable handsets. Such global planning will give investors the confidence to fund the development of 3G/HSPA at 900MHz and 1800MHz as well. There should be no differentiation between the different GSM bands (900/1800/1900) to avoid any distortion of competition among GSM operators. The same benefits would also be achieved by refarming 850MHz spectrum (widely used in US and Latin America).

"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 Consulting. "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."

The study examines the economics of 3G-network rollout at different frequency bands, but does not attempt to address the potential competitive effects of refarming."

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Tags: gsm association  ovum  1800mhz  hspa  900mhz  gsma  refarming  850mhz 

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