Next-Gen Spectrum Crunch

As the standards for next-generation wireless systems evolve, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome will be spectrum availability, finds a new Unstrung Insider report.

According to the report, Evolved HSPA and the Roadmap to LTE, Long-Term Evolution (LTE) has emerged as the frontrunner to become the next-generation wireless standard. NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) is the operator spearheading the technology's development, while Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) recently said they were both developing LTE. (See DoCoMo Tests 'Super 3G' and Verizon, Vodafone Head for LTE.)

The major vendors with LTE research and development initiatives are Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Nokia Networks , and Nortel Networks Ltd. .

But the key barrier to LTE deployment is the lack of available spectrum. And LTE needs a lot of spectrum.

According to an International Telecommunication Union, Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) report, between 1280 MHz and 1720 MHz of spectrum will be needed by 2020 to meet expected traffic growth. Not including spectrum already allocated for mobile communications, the report finds that an additional 1 GHz of spectrum needs to be found for future mobile communications technologies.

The World Radiocommunication Conference 2007 (WRC) in Geneva, which is where the world's spectrum regulators meet every four years, is currently debating which spectrum should be identified for next-generation mobile communications.

The UMTS Forum has lobbied the WRC for 100 MHz of frequencies in the UHF bands to be allocated to mobile communications. This spectrum is also referred to as the "digital dividend," because it will become available as broadcasters switch from analog to digital TV. (See UMTS Forum Wants Spectrum.)

"It's vital that crucial spectrum decisions are made without delay at WRC-07, giving operators and manufacturers a clear target to plan their technical and commercial strategies for the years ahead," said Jean-Pierre Bienaimé, chairman of the UMTS Forum, in a press release. "Now is the right time to identify new spectrum for IMT. Typically, it has taken around a decade from spectrum being identified to its availability and licensing."

Another lobbying group is the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) initiative, which was founded by China Mobile Communications Corp. , KPN Mobile , NTT DoCoMo, Salt SA , Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), T-Mobile International AG , and Vodafone. This group wants channel widths of 20 MHz in the sub 1 GHz frequencies and 100 MHz in frequency bands between 2 GHz and 5 GHz.

The Unstrung Insider report evaluates the pros and cons of the different spectrum possibilities for next-generation wireless.

The WRC concludes on November 16, and its decisions will shape the future of mobile communications.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

The report, Evolved HSPA & the Roadmap to LTE, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Unstrung Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.unstrung.com/insider.

wap545 12/5/2012 | 2:59:11 PM
re: Next-Gen Spectrum Crunch Is 20Mhz (Uner 1Ghz)enough to accomodate the expected 4G requirements, and why would anyone try to operate a 4G Network in the congested and foliage prone 2-5Ghz spectrum?
Not sure I understand your comment: "...between 1289Mhz and 1720Mhz of spectrum will be needed..."
I assume you are not talking about the spectrum per say but the quantity of bandwidth we'd need-correct??
Again, is 40Mhz of the lower band 700Mhz spectrum going to be sufficient for these 4G nets Like (LTE etc)?
IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 2:59:07 PM
re: Next-Gen Spectrum Crunch between 1289Mhz and 1720Mhz of spectrum will be needed

That's the recommendation of ITU-R report M.2078 about the aggregate amount of spectrum needed to support mobile service growth through 2020. Given there's roughly 700 MHz already identified for mobile, that means 1 GHz (aggregate) of spectrum will have to be "found" to meet the high demand scenario.

There's a picture here showing the candidate bands here: http://img.lightreading.com/un.... The pros and cons of each are shown here: http://img.lightreading.com/un...

As noted in the article, the UMTS Forum has upped its bid to 100 MHz in the UHF Band. It had previously argued for 80 MHz (2x40 MHz)

The NGMN requirement is for paired channels of 20 MHz (with multiple paired channels desired) below 1GHz. This is preferable to using smaller, non-contiguous, channels, even if the LTE requirements doc (TR 25.913) states ability to work in variable channel widths is a necessity.

As for the higher frequency bands, that's just a fact of life. WiMax people believe that smart antenna technology is the solution. At 2.6 GHz that seems reasonable. It's bit worse than 2.1 GHz, but operators may get wider channels and, with smart antennas, it should work OK.

A parallel would be propagation for 3G at 2.1 GHz is bit worse than GSM propagation at 1800MHzGǪ but it still works.

Longer-term, it seems like to move to higher frequencies will require different network topologies. i.e. lots more femtocells and relaying systems (a.k.a. mesh).
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