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 and launching next-generation networks such as LTE, which will start to be deployed commercially around the world this year.
“There is clear evidence that the volume of data flowing over mobile networks is growing rapidly and is being accelerated by the popularity of smart phones and the growth in music and video downloads,” said Tom Phillips, Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer at the GSMA. “The report highlights that the 2.6 GHz band will allow operators to address rapidly increasing traffic volumes in an efficient and harmonised way. Recent licensing of this band in Hong Kong, Norway, Finland and Sweden, for example, has highlighted that there is more demand for paired (FDD) than unpaired spectrum (TDD) and that the ITU’s recommended Option 1** plan is the best structure to stimulate market growth in a technology-neutral and competitive environment.”
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 research also points out that in many cases, the 2.6 GHz frequency will be the first opportunity for mobile operators to acquire 2x20 MHz of contiguous spectrum, enabling them to operate high-speed LTE services at optimum performance. LTE is the next-generation Mobile Broadband technology for both GSM and CDMA operators, and will leverage new and wider bandwidths to significantly increase data capacity in high demand zones such as dense urban areas. The 2.6 GHz spectrum is the ideal complement to the 700 MHz spectrum, also known as ‘digital dividend’, and will enable the most cost-effective nationwide coverage of Mobile Broadband across both rural and urban environments.
Governments in most Western European countries as well as in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and South Africa are planning to award 2.6 GHz frequencies within the next two years.