Study highlights economic potential of early broadband spectrum access

[London, UK, August 31, 2015] Early access to spectrum for mobile broadband in the so-called 'C-Band' is feasible, and likely to generate significant economic benefits, a recent report reveals. The study demonstrates that spectrum sharing between mobile broadband and current uses such as satellite services could enable larger capacity for networks and higher download speeds.

The independent report by Plum Consulting, commissioned by Ericsson, Huawei and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and published in June 2015, assessed the implications of early access to spectrum in the frequency range 3.4-4.2 GHz, the C-Band. As demand for mobile broadband is forecast to increase by several orders of magnitude over the next ten to fifteen years, additional spectrum for mobile services will become a prerequisite for meeting these needs. The C-Band plays a key role in this context, as this frequency range is particularly suitable for the evolution of 4G and future 5G innovation.

The report found that early access to spectrum in the C-Band could provide significant additional capacity for network operators to meet growing traffic demand, and secure a good user experience. It also points to significant economic benefits for this scenario, by enabling larger capacity and higher download speeds than in the current networks, especially in hot spots.

"With mobile demand set to explode over the next decade, additional spectrum needs to be freed up to prevent a shortage," said Quan Yu, Chief Strategy Officer, at Huawei Wireless Product Line. "The C-Band potentially offers the large contiguous blocks that will be required for mobile broadband use as mobile data traffic grows. It may allow mobile operators to address the traffic growth challenge while reducing the costs of service provision and improving end user quality of experience, making it a key frequency range to explore for future mobile communications."

The current use of the C-Band varies from one country to another. In the countries studied – Hungary, Italy, Sweden and the UK – the benefit would amount to EUR 2.7bn by 2028 for use of the spectrum in an outdoor environment, according to the study. The use of more advanced sharing techniques could further increase this amount.

The report suggests establishing national frameworks to enable spectrum sharing between mobile broadband and incumbent services to protect them against potential interference from mobile networks, while allowing operators to provide a predictable quality of service. The sharing mechanisms could be implemented using a Licensed Shared Access (LSA) regulatory approach to incentivise the full sharing potential offered by the band.

"The potential benefits of sharing between fixed satellite services and mobile communications are vast. In order to make the C-Band available for mobile services, while at the same time protecting incumbent services, administrations need to establish national frameworks for spectrum sharing," said Enrico Salvatori, SVP and President, Qualcomm Europe. "Sharing mechanisms implemented through LSA could enable more advanced sharing thanks to the closer cooperation between the incumbent and the LSA licensee."

Jan Färjh, Vice President and Head of Standardization and Industry at Ericsson, observes that, "Making additional spectrum available through release of the C-band is an important factor in avoiding future spectrum deficiencies, and providing increased bandwidth for mobile communication. Action is required in the short term to ensure sufficient predictability and regulatory certainty for potential users of the band in the long term."

The Plum Report comes ahead of the ITU's World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) in November 2015, where the C-Band will figure high on the agenda. The conference will be a watershed moment for the long-term development of high-speed wireless broadband services.

Download the full report

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