Tuesday, January 12, 2010

GSMA: 2.6 GHz Band Vital for the Growth of LTE

The licensing of the 2.6 GHz band will be critical to unlocking the benefits of global scale economies in the Mobile Broadband market, according to a new report* by US-based research firm Global View Partners in partnership with the GSMA. The research found that the 2.6 GHz spectrum, which has been identified globally by the ITU as the "3G extension band", will be vital in satisfying the demand for greater capacity for mobile broadband.

The report provides and update on the current status of worldwide licensing of the 2.6 GHz spectrum band and assesses the viability and implications of the three ITU band plan options.

The 2.6 GHz band (2500-2690 MHz), sometimes also referred as the 2.5 GHz band, was allocated by the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in 2000 for terrestrial mobile communications services. The report notes that to date, the 2.6 GHz band is unique in that the band includes a substantial amount of spectrum (190 MHz) that has been allocated on a primary basis in all three ITU regions for terrestrial mobile communications. Still, controversy exists surrounding the extent to which and how the 190 MHz available in the 2.6 GHz band plan should be divided between paired and unpaired spectrum suited to FDD and TDD modes of operation respectively. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) presents three possible options:

  • Option 1 - Preconfigured allocations of paired (FDD) and unpaired (TDD) spectrum.

  • Option 2 - Paired spectrum only with the uplink portion of some pairs in another undetermined band.

  • Option 3 -- Flexibility, allowing the bidders for spectrum to decide how they want to allocate the spectrum they acquire to paired (FDD) or unpaired (TDD) operation.

Licenses have been issued in several countries to-date, notably Norway, Sweden, Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States, and more 2.6 GHz auctions are anticipated over the next one to two years in multiple national markets.

In Europe, measurable progress has been achieved towards the allocation of the 2.6 GHz frequency, as specified in the ITU Option 1 plan. There is widespread agreement at the member state and European Union level that this objective will best be fulfilled in a manner that is harmonised and coordinated across all countries in the region. The research suggests that leaving the band unstructured for auctions or with a diverse mix of non-harmonised FDD and TDD allocations should be avoided. Potential challenges include interference management, resulting reductions in usable bandwidth and loss of coverage in border regions, as well as higher costs and delayed equipment availability.

The full report is online.