Wireless spectrum crunch? Not so fast

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 12:12pm
Mike Robuck

While devices such as iPhones and tablets have no doubt put a heavy burden on wireless networks the wireless spectrum seems to be holding up well, according to a report. 

“Seven years ago the ITU predicted the world would need twice as much radio frequency spectrum as is allocated now, and that was even before the advent of the data-hungry iPhone. But if the ITU forecast had held true, all mobile networks with significant mobile broadband usage would have crashed by now,” said Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research.

“HSPA+ and LTE are two of the primary reasons operators have been able to squeeze more and more bits out of limited spectrum. HSPA/HSPA+ and LTE improve spectral efficiency so significantly that the need for spectrum has been greatly reduced, often by at least half. LTE technology is not only resistant to interference between cells but also spreads transmission efficiently over available spectrum.”

Téral said the mobile spectrum report looked at other techniques that mobile operators were using to optimize their networks without adding more spectrum while also refuting the mainstream belief that there’s not enough spectrum available.

Wi-Fi offload, which is a growing opportunity for cable operators,  has helped ease the spectrum crunch. Some mobile operators reported to Infonetics that up 75 percent of their mobile data traffic was on Wi-Fi.

Other highlights from the report included:

• Despite the ubiquity of HSPA and EV-DO , average mobile connection speeds remained low, below 4 Mbps on average in the 16 countries included in Infonetics’ analysis

• Russia had the highest average (4.1 Mbps) and peak (21 Mbps) mobile connection speeds, mainly because it has one of the world’s best mobile networks but relatively few 3G subscribers and low Internet usage

• The U.S. leads the global mobile broadband race when it comes to number of LTE subscribers, accounting for just over half of the world’s 64 million LTE subscribers

• Countries with heavy mobile broadband usage, such as the US, South Korea, and Japan, were on track to need 1,000 MHz of spectrum by 2017

• Indonesia, the third largest population on earth, has the potential to be the “new China” in terms of mobile growth opportunities; however, the country has been slow to enable mobile broadband and open up 3G spectrum.


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