The full potential of mobile broadband services will only be realised if governments act to release existing harmonised mobile spectrum bands and allocate more spectrum, according to leading industry experts speaking at yesterday’s Cambridge Wireless (CW) Conference: Mobile Broadband in the Real World (17 December 2014).
The warning comes less than 12 months ahead of the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) in Geneva that will review the international treaty governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum.
“The negotiations at WRC-15 will be a significant factor determining whether operators will be able to support the mobile broadband access goals set by governments around the world and meet the bandwidth demands for next generation mobile networks and applications,” said Iain Stanbridge, principal network architect at EE and CW Mobile Broadband SIG (Special Interest Group) Champion, addressing delegates at the conference.
The benefits of mobile broadband and the urgent need to address spectrum issues were highlighted by Janette Stewart, principal at Analysys Mason, who presented the results of a recent study completed with the GSMA and Huawei. “We found that the number of 3G and 4G mobile broadband connections is forecast to reach 3 billion in Asia–Pacific by 2020 and consume more than 50 000PB of data per year,” said Stewart.
“These figures reflect similar growth in other parts of the world driven by new services such as video streaming, location-based apps and the Internet of Things (IoT). Mobile operators can support growing data demand through deploying new technologies such as LTE-A, or by making networks more dense using LTE small cells or Wi-Fi, but adding more spectrum is the most cost effective way to enhance capacity.”
With regard to the study, “Today, Tomorrow and the Future – Managing Data Demand in Asia Pacific”, Peter Montgomery, director of partnerships, GSMA commented: “The negotiations at WRC-15 next November provide a unique opportunity for leaders in the Asia Pacific region to support the next generation of mobile networks and services.
“We urge governments to make a clear and strong call for significantly more spectrum for mobile, to promote the future growth of their countries’ digital economies and to enhance the lives of their citizens through widespread access to digital services and, hence, greater social inclusion.”
George Grayland, senior wireless solutions manager at Nokia Networks, presented examples from world-leading 4G nations. “4G LTE is already the dominant mobile broadband technology in Korea with a 66% LTE subscriber penetration, followed by Singapore, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and the USA – all offering advanced services and capabilities beyond the experience of most consumers in the UK,” said Grayland.
“While the UK is still leading many other European countries and perhaps the global gap is narrowing, the recent momentum needs to be maintained,” he added.
This was followed by Colin Muir, SBJ mobile journalism at BBC News who demonstrated how the availability of high bandwidth mobile technologies has had a huge impact on the broadcast industry and helps the BBC to cover breaking news stories and events around the world.
“The availability of LTE and use of mobile bonding technology has changed the way we are able to broadcast our content live, but until the UK networks are mature we still face the challenges of coverage, contention and consistent quality and latency,” said Muir.
Looking ahead, Moray Rumney, lead technologist at Keysight Technologies, focused on the allocation of spectrum for 5G services, expected to be deployed from around 2020. “While WRC 2015 will focus on spectrum below 6 GHz for the future of existing mobile broadband, we also need to start down the road to 5G by ensuring that mmWave spectrum for 5G is on the agenda for WRC 2019,” said Rumney.
“There is already a consortium of existing military, satellite and broadcast mmWave spectrum users keen to hold onto their existing allocations and so negotiations to free up new spectrum for mobile broadband will be hard fought. The UK position for WRC is now being developed through the UK Spectrum Policy Forum led by techUK, backed by the Department for Culture Media and Sport."
“It is important to draw upon real examples of how MBB/4G is already successfully harnessed across different sectors and to ensure this continues, governments and regulators need to understand the challenges of data growth and their role in facilitating this, including the associated long term spectrum needs,” said EE’s Iain Stanbridge.
“Yesterday’s event provided a great showcase for real-world applications across enterprise, media and public safety and gave a glimpse of what could be available in the future.”