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Re-farming 2G spectrum the key rural broadband

Re-farming 2G spectrum will be key to enabling mobile broadband coverage outside major population centres. This is according to a new report from Analysys Mason, Prospects for UMTS900: status review and outlook.

Liberalising the usage of the 850/900MHz frequency bands, in which 2G GSM/CDMA services currently operate, to allow operators to evolve their networks in these bands to newer technologies such as UMTS/HSPA is a significant emerging trend, which will extend the reach of 3G services, such as mobile broadband, to suburban/rural areas not covered by operators' existing 2100MHz 3G networks.

"Cost-effective coverage of large, thinly populated land masses is the key benefit of introducing UMTS in the 850MHz or 900MHz bands," says Catherine Viola, author of the report and Senior Analyst at Analysys Mason. "At lower frequencies, radio signals propagate further, meaning that fewer sites are needed for network roll-out. At 900MHz, for example, networks can be built and operated with cost savings of around 50-70% compared with networks deployed in 2100MHz core-band 3G spectrum. These coverage and cost-saving benefits mean that operators can bring 3G services to less-densely populated areas that were previously uneconomical to cover."

UMTS900 networks have already been launched successfully in Europe, Asia-Pacific and South America, eg, by DNA and Elisa in Finland, Síminn in Iceland, Optus in Australia, Vodafone in New Zealand, AIS in Thailand and Digitel in Venezuela.

"Regulation has been a bottleneck in Europe, because the GSM Directive restricted the use of the 900MHz band to GSM technology. A recent EU decision to remove this technology constraint paves the way for national regulators throughout the region to introduce spectrum refarming measures, if they have not already done so," continues Catherine Viola. "UMTS900 will allow operators to bring 3G services to many more customers than before and open up new revenue streams, especially from mobile broadband."

Prospects for UMTS900: status review and outlook also reviews the deployment status of UMTS900 worldwide and evaluates the potential role of UMTS900 in mobile network evolution for a range of operator types.

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