Solaris Mobile, a next generation mobile satellite services (MSS) operator, today (21 May 2013) welcomed the findings from a report published by LS telcom which concludes that an integrated terrestrial-satellite network, using 2GHz S-Band spectrum for mobile broadband represents a cost effective solution for the public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) sector across Europe.
The report, ‘Comparison of the performance of 700 MHz versus 2 GHz networks for PPDR Services’ makes a direct comparison between the performance of an expanded 700MHz network and that of a 2GHz terrestrial-satellite hybrid network operating in Greater London.
LS telcom found that ‘the Solaris 2GHz network [is] able to deliver and exceed the stated PPDR community data requirements and provide good indoor coverage at a cost per bit that is substantially lower than the use of a 700MHz network in the same area’. A 700MHz network covering Greater London was estimated to cost EU3.5 million NPV/Mbps compared to EU1.9 million NPV/Mbps for a terrestrial-satellite network operating in S-Band.
Matthew Child, chief executive, Solaris Mobile, welcomed the findings of the report stating that a converged terrestrial-satellite network was the logical, cost-effective choice for critical communications agencies. ‘Only the combination of satellite and terrestrial coverage can give the PPDR sector the bandwidth, availability and resilience they need to meet the projected demand for data services.
‘A hybrid solution plays to the unique strengths of each network. High bandwidth services can be delivered via S-Band at a lower cost-per-bit than current solutions while mission critical voice systems can stay on narrowband networks until ready to migrate to LTE in the future,’ he continued.
In addition, the report raises concerns about the practicality of expanding 700MHz spectrum for the exclusive use of critical communications users. The conclusions noted:
- 700MHz spectrum is unlikely to become available for mobile usage until at least 2018 and more likely 2020;
- There is no guarantee that, once 700MHz spectrum is released, it would automatically be made available for PPDR services;
- The opportunity cost to Europe of providing 2 x10 MHz for PPDR services in the 700MHz band is estimated to be €5 billion.
The ‘Comparison of the performance of 700 versus 2GHz networks for PPDR Services’ can be found at www.lstelcom.com
The Solaris Mobile business case for an integrated terrestrial-satellite solution
Solaris Mobile secured S-Band radio spectrum (1995-2010//2185-2200MHz) through a selection and authorisation process co-ordinated by the European Union in 2009. This spectrum is available across all EU Member States and in addition to supporting satellite services it can also augment satellite coverage through the use of complementary ground component (CGC) using terrestrial base stations.
In the same year that Solaris Mobile secured the spectrum, a satellite payload was launched on the Eutelsat 10A satellite (formerly W2A). Solaris Mobile is exploring a business opportunity to use their spectrum and satellite assets to provide a combined terrestrial/satellite service across the EU for PPDR agencies.
The PPDR industry, however, favours a solution which uses spectrum below 1GHz. Following the release of spectrum in the UHF television band, and moves at WRC-12 to release even more of this band, the PPDR community is pushing for an allocation in the, yet to be re-farmed, 700 MHz band.
The Solaris Mobile business case considers the use of the 2GHz spectrum to provide high bandwidth, dense coverage in urban areas whilst terrestrial coverage is provided in suburban areas.
In considering this case, the existing TETRA/TETRAPOL networks used by PPDR agencies remain active for voice services and will be supplemented in rural areas by Solaris’s satellite coverage which will be used to connect ‘in vehicle repeaters’ that extend coverage to a suitable equipped mobile PPDR vehicle.
When agents are outside of the S-Band terrestrial network they will have access to a commercial mobile operators network providing further capacity and coverage, albeit with reduced reliability, availability, integrity and possibly with reduced functionality.
Solaris Mobile believes that its S-Band 2GHz spectrum has a number of distinct advantages over other spectrum being considered for PPDR usage, namely:
- It is already available meaning that networks could be rolled-out immediately with no need for prolonged regulatory activity or re-farming; This also means that a 2GHz network could be deployed with immediate effect as the spectrum is available today
- Significant economic benefits to a network deployment as it re-uses the entire existing commercial network base station infrastructure used for UMTS/3G deployments
- It is available across the EU. The benefits of harmonised spectrum should not be underestimated. As the PPDR community is relatively small (compared with, say, the cellular or broadcast markets), harmonisation is important to ensure sufficient economies of scale in equipment production
- The fact that this spectrum is harmonised provides a greater facility for cross border co-operation between agencies;
- Cross-border operations are particularly affected by lack of interoperability because of linguistic barriers or because national organisations use different network technologies. The duplex spacing of the spectrum is identical to that in existing 2GHz UMTS mobile handsets (facilitating more straightforward integrations into existing hardware)
- It would permit the development of a network with features and functionality attuned to the PPDR market
- On-going spectrum auctions have shown a higher interest from commercial mobile operators in sub-1GHz spectrum resulting in higher pricing than for 2.6GHz spectrum. Regulators need to consider the opportunity cost of assigning dedicated 700MHz spectrum to the PPDR sector.