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The spectrum rubric for mobile broadband - A European perspective

17 сентября 2010

Radio spectrum is a crucial resource for mobile service providers to economically deliver wireless services.  The primary spectrum bands allocated in Europe include 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz. More recently regulators have been auctioning 800 and 2600 MHz licenses. As service providers spend billions of dollars on spectrum licenses, there are several key factors that influence the valuations, including the following...

  • Operating frequency: Traditionally lower operating frequencies, such 800 and 900 MHz have carried a premium because of superior coverage characteristics. We believe that this premium will diminish somewhat as mobile broadband growth drives increased focus towards capacity. Furthermore, we expect service providers will leverage spectrum combinations across lower and higher operating frequencies with multi-band implementations to simultaneously address coverage and capacity demands. Based on the analysis of the spectrum holdings of 170 service providers, we estimate an average of 2.6 spectrum bands are allocated per service provider in Europe, with most having 900 and 1800 MHz license. This will increase dramatically as new licenses are issued in the 800 MHz and 2600 Hz bands.
  • Spectrum bandwidth: The spectrum bandwidth a service provider has directly impacts the capacity that can be supported with a given number of cell sites. Service providers with greater spectrum resources have a distinct advantage over competitors with lesser bandwidth allocations. The aggregate spectrum bandwidth allocated to service providers varies significantly across European markets. We estimate that the average allocation across the region is 71.6 MHz, and anticipate that this will increase to approximately 100 MHz as new licenses are issued in the 800 and 2600 MHz bands, and with continued market consolidation
  • Maximum contiguous channel size: Mobile broadband heralds new radio technologies like LTE, which thrive in wideband implementations. We believe that channel sizes of at least 10 MHz are necessary for LTE to outperform other earlier technologies like HSPA+. Based on an analysis of over 500 licenses across Europe, we found that there continues to be significant fragmentation in allocations amongst service providers, which will seriously impact spectrum efficiencies. In particular, the average contiguous bandwidth is 7.1MHz for 900, 11.1MHz for 1800, 10.1MHz for 2100 and 15.7 for 2600 MHz licenses. With current allocations, service providers will typically be restricted to mobile broadband carriers that have channel sizes of between 5 and 10MHz. Many service providers with 900 MHz licenses will be challenged with re-allocation and re-farming initiatives for UMTS/HSPA and LTE, particularly while they continue to support GSM/EDGE in the same band. Spectrum re-allocations amongst players will be necessary as mobile broadband continues to take hold.
  • TDD versus FDD channel structure: The lion’s share of mobile spectrum is allocated in pairs to enable frequency division duplexing (FDD) as opposed to time division duplexing (TDD). Traditionally FDD licenses have carried a significant premium over TDD. With advent of TDD-LTE and efforts by players like Qualcomm and Ericsson to offer dual mode FDD/TDD-LTE capabilities, it appears that the differential between FDD and TDD is diminishing. In the recent 2600MHz license auction in Germany both FDD and TDD licenses were auctioned, and achieved comparable price multiples.

As industry players embrace mobile broadband, it is critical that careful attention is paid to the alignment of spectrum resources with current and future technology demands. Individual bands can no longer be treated in isolation. Valuations must account for contiguous channel bandwidth and spectrum portfolios in aggregate.


By Phil Marshall, PhD,

Chief Research Officer, Tolaga Research and Dianne Northfield

Источник: 4G Trends

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