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Network Operators to face 3G Network Capacity Crisis in 2010

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Some mobile network operators are likely to face a 3G network capacity crisis as early as next year and will need to accelerate the migration towards LTE networks, concludes a study from Unwired Insight.

The report says that 3G traffic volumes are set to increase by a factor of 20 by 2015, driven by many factors, including the increased adoption of traffic-intensive services such as mobile broadband and mobile TV services, the increased proportion of smartphones and dramatic reductions in mobile data pricing.

Dr Alastair Brydon, co-author of the new report says, "Pricing of mobile data has changed dramatically since the days that SMS was the dominant service. Mobile broadband pricing has fallen as low as USD2 per gigabyte, which is nearly half a million times smaller than the price per gigabyte of an SMS message."

As 2G users continue to migrate to 3G services, the available capacity per 3G user will decline rapidly in networks utilising HSPA, to less than 100MB per user per month in some cases. LTE will be essential to counter this decline.

In addition, network operators will have an insatiable appetite for LTE spectrum, to stand any chance of keeping up with forecast traffic demand. For some operators, 10MHz of spectrum will be able to support forecast traffic levels only until 2011. A further 10MHz will be needed by 2012 and another 10MHz in 2013. In addition, some operators will have to embark on major network expansion programmes to keep pace with forecast traffic levels.

"LTE's ability to relieve the capacity constraints of HSPA networks will be limited initially, until operators can acquire additional spectrum and seed a sufficient number of LTE devices in the market place," says co-author Dr Mark Heath. "We don't expect to see LTE handsets until 2011," he warns.

A free whitepaper associated with the report is available to download from the Unwired Insight website here: http://www.unwiredinsight.com/whitepaper.pdf

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Tags: lte  radio spectrum  3g  hspa  broadband  pace  3g network  2g