THE GSM ASSOCIATION believes that the licensing of the 2.6GHz band will be critical to unlocking the benefits of global scale economies in the mobile broadband market.
With the Mobile World Congress just weeks away, the GSMA has released a report (PDF) done in conjunction with Global View Partners highlighting the need for regulators to ensure that the 2.6GHz band is freed up to help provide the excess capacity required when launching next-generation networks such as LTE.
Dubbed Option 1, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reckons that the best use of the 2.6GHz band will be create two 70MHz segments using Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) at both ends with a centre block of 50MHz using Time Division Duplex (TDD).
The report reckons that this would be the ideal complement to the 700MHz spectrum becoming available as part of the digital switchover, and would help address both urban and rural environments.
"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 2.6GHz 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."
The call for harmonised spectrum echoes that made by the UMTS Forum at the ITU Telecom World event in Geneva in October.
So far, the European Union has been pushing the ITU's Option 1 across member states, with general agreement that leaving the band unstructured for auctions or with a diverse mix of non-harmonised FDD and TDD allocations should be avoided.
Standardising on the 2.6GHz frequency will not only help ensure interoperability, but will also be the first opportunity for mobile operators to acquire two sets of 20MHz of contiguous spectrum, which would help ensure better LTE performance. However, the report does admit that this would result in the some issues around interference management.
With so many stakeholders involved in the development of next generation mobile data access, this year's Mobile World Congress will undoubtedly see many manufacturers and standards bodies continue to thrash out details on how to best overcome the existing barriers to wide scale rollout. µ
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