ArticlE rEprint — SpEctrum oF opportunitiES
3G Spreads Across Latin America
The rapid deployment of 3G across the globe largely missed LatinAmerica during the past three years, but the region is finally becominga hotbed for next-generation deployments. Plans for 3G networks saton the back burner during 2006 and 2007 as Latin American operatorsrecovered from the massive capital expenditures they incurredmigrating from TDMA to GSM or CDMA.But 3G has gained importance now that mobile data services aremaking inroads into the region and 3G handset prices are falling.As a result, Latin American regulators are auctioning off spectrum,although some operators have already launched 3G services intheir existing spectrum.According to Tarcisio Ribeiro, Tellabs vice president and generalmanager of Latin America and the Caribbean, the new 3G spectrumcoming into the region will enable operators to extend servicesbeyond voice and compete with both cable and wireline telephonecompanies.“The spectrum they are acquiring will allow them to offer broadbandservices, with the added advantage of gaining mobility,” Ribeiro said.Here’s a rundown of what has already happened and what is ahead:
— Regulators auctioned off 3G spectrum in the 1900MHz band. All of the country’s existing operators won spectrumat prices that reached up to a 104 percent premium over theminimum bid determined by the government. In the first twoyears of offering 3G services, the operators are required to offercoverage of at least 50 percent of the urban area in Brazil’scapital cities, in the Brasilia Federal District and in cities withmore than 500,000 inhabitants. WiMAX spectrum will beauctioned this year in the 3.5 GHz band.
— About 90 MHz is expected to be released this year,according to Erasmo Rojas, director of Latin America and theCaribbean with 3G Americas. Regulators plan to sell spectrum at1900 MHz, 2100 MHz and 1700 MHz, which aligns with the U.S.AWS bands. WiMAX spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band is expectedto be offered this year.
— The 1700 MHz AWS band has been reserved for3G services, and the government appears ready to auction it thisspring, Rojas said.
— Sixty MHz in the 1900 MHz band was auctioned inDecember 2007.
— Operators have launched 3G in existing spectrum, butChile plans to auction 700 MHz spectrum for 3G in 2009, aligningitself with the United States. WiMAX will be auctioned in the 2.5GHz band in the second half of 2008.Rojas said the initial steps for those operators that have launched3G is to offer Internet access through laptop data cards, but ashandset prices fall they can begin to target enterprises, as well asconsumers with e-mail, music and streaming video.
Europe Opens Up 2.6 GHz
The United Kingdom, Norway and Sweden are expected to becomethe first European markets to auction spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band,which will be used for mobile broadband on a technology-neutralbasis. These auctions will set a baseline for how much 2.6 GHzspectrum will be reserved for operators that want to deploy OFDMA-based systems, such WiMAX and LTE, rather than 3G technologiessuch as UMTS.One question is how much of the spectrum will be allocated to TDDto enable WiMAX. CEPT says that regulators should allocate 50 MHzfor TDD and two 70 MHz blocks for FDD. But U.K. regulators don’tbelieve those guidelines match the potential operators are lookingfor and are prepared to take another approach. Sources close to theWiMAX Forum say it plans an FDD version of WiMAX at 2.6 GHz,although it’s unclear when that might be released.Also in Europe:
— Ofcom plans to auction spectrum in the2010–2025 MHz and 2500–2690 MHz bands this summer.That spectrum will be offered on a technology-neutral basis,a boon for operators considering LTE and WiMAX.Amid objections from the country’s operators, Ofcom plans tobuck the European Commission’s decision to allocate FDD/TDDspectrum within the 2600 MHz band by allowing greater flexibilityin allocating unpaired spectrum to accommodate WiMAX. Operatorobjections include the perceived potential for interference.
Bridging the Digital Divide
At its November 2007 meeting in Geneva, the WRC adoptedan international treaty to increase available spectrum formobile broadband services. The ITU adopted a proposal,promoted by African governments, to identify a chunk ofUHF spectrum for mobile broadband services in developingcountries and rural areas of developed countries.Europe, the Middle East and Asia all backed the proposal,agreeing to allocate the same 790–862 MHz band; theAmericas identified 108 MHz in the 698–862 MHz bandfor mobile broadband services. The WRC also identified200 MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 3.4–3.6 GHz bandfor high-capacity, next-generation mobile networks.“This decision by the WRC is an important step towardsenabling hundreds of millions of people in the developingworld and rural parts of the developed world to gainaffordable access to broadband services,” said Tom Phillips,chief government & regulatory affairs officer of the GSMAssociation. “Radio signals in the UHF spectrum will travelfurther than signals in the higher bands, enabling futuremobile broadband networks to reach as far as 2G networksdo today.”