The use of the 2.5-GHz and 700-MHz spectrum bands for LTE continues to be delayed in many Asia-Pacific markets. Existing users have to be migrated from these spectrum bands to new ones in some markets, while complex negotiations on the refarming of the bands with the military or terrestrial TV industry are causing delays in others.
This is causing problems for operators as LTE is an important part of their cost-optimization strategies. LTE rollouts are being fast-tracked by many operators in an effort to reduce costs, with LTE expected to reduce per bit costs by 20%.
As a result of these delays, many of the operators in Asia-Pacific that are looking to launch LTE networks now have no choice but to deploy their network using spectrum in the 1800MHz band. LTE at 1800-MHz will be crucial for international roaming, and we strongly urge regulators in the region to allow the 1800-MHz band to be refarmed for LTE.
Asia-Pacific also needs to unite to support one 700MHz band plan for LTE. The 2.5-GHz and 700-MHz bands have been earmarked for LTE in the region. However, Hong Kong is the only country in the area to have allocated 2.5-GHz for LTE. Malaysia could issue 2.5GHz spectrum by the end of 2011, while Australia is scheduled to auction it in late 2012.
However, of far greater concern is the allocation of the 700MHz band. Only Australia has announced that it will adopt the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity’s (APT) “Digital Dividend Band Plan”, which advocates the allocation of 2×45MHz of paired spectrum at 698–806-MHz.
New Zealand has announced that it intends to adopt the plan, while India, Indonesia, Singapore, and South Korea are also believed to be supportive of the band plan. Japan is also said to be adjusting its 700-MHz band plan along similar lines. Some countries in Asia-Pacific initially looked to the European 800-MHz band plan for guidance, but all of these have now indicated that they will support the APT’s band plan. The APT's 700-MHz band plan has very little overlap with the European plan, meaning that 700-MHz band plan devices in Asia-Pacific won’t work in Europe or the US.
Harmonization of the 700-MHz band in Asia-Pacific is vital for roaming within the region, and for developing economies of scale. Regulators need to make public announcements in support of the APT’s band plan in order to drive adoption. In addition, the lack of clarity from regulators on when new spectrum for LTE will be released has created a difficult situation for device manufacturers. In short, regulators need to provide more clarity on their plans for the allocation of spectrum.