To meet the anticipated demand for mobile broadband, the telecom industry is going to have to harness all the resources at its disposal. A sometimes overlooked and underestimated resource is spectrum in the 1800MHz band.
Close to half of the world’s mobile operators (including 72 in the Asia-Pacific region) have licenses to use 1800MHz spectrum. Right now, this band is mostly used to deliver GSM services, but 1800MHz could play an integral role in meeting the fast-rising demand for mobile access to social networks, web sites, corporate applications, email and other Internet-based services.
Several mobile operators in both Europe and APAC have already run extensive trials of mobile broadband services at 1800MHz, but the pace of commercial rollouts will be determined mainly by the availability of compatible dongles, smartphones, tablets, netbooks and other devices.
In the many countries in which new spectrum is in short supply, refarming 1800MHz for mobile broadband is a relatively painless way to significantly increase the capacity available, enabling smartphones and other mobile broadband devices to go truly mass-market.
In many countries, the band contains the widest allocation of spectrum mobile operators have – typically 150 MHz has been split between operators in each market. Crucially, the 1800MHz band, sitting in the middle of spectrum range used for mobile services, is very versatile, offering good coverage characteristics, as well as high capacity.
Moreover, in many countries, the 1800MHz band has been licensed on a technology-neutral basis meaning it can be refarmed to offer mobile broadband services using LTE, HSPA+ or HSPA, while continuing to support GSM services.
It is not surprising then that several pioneering mobile operators are pushing on with refarming this spectrum. Mobyland launched the world’s first commercial LTE 1800MHz network in Poland in September 2010. CSL in Hong Kong, Deutsche Telekom in Europe and Telstra in Australia are among the operators that plan to launch LTE services in the 1800MHz band this year, while France Telecom Orange plans to launch HSPA/HSPA+ services at 1800MHz during 2011.