|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2009|
|Topic:||Mobile broadband evolution|
|Organisation:||Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA)|
Alan Hadden has been President of the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) since its formation in 1998; he has 22 years’ experience in the mobile communications industry. Previously, Mr Hadden was on the senior management team of a UK PCN/GSM 1800 operator and involved in the start-up, launch, and expansion phases. He assisted key stakeholders and overseas regulators to establish 1,800 MHz as a mainstream band internationally for cellular services and with the market entry of new mobile businesses. Mr Hadden represented the company in key UK industry forums, and internationally at ETSI, the GSM Association and the UMTS Forum. Before then, Mr Hadden was Industrial Advisor to the UK communications regulator, where he represented views influencing regulation and standardization at national and international level. Mr Hadden’s second book, Mobile Broadband with HSPA, LTE and Beyond: Services, Markets and Business Opportunities, will be published later this year.
Mobile broadband’s rapid adoption is due to the standardisation of high-speed transmission technology, and to the widespread availability of lower-cost, more ‘intelligent’ network equipment and user devices. It is also due to growing mobile Internet access for services including social networking and multi-media applications. Regulators throughout the world are freeing spectrum for mobile broadband. The switch from analogue to digital TV will make significant amounts of spectrum available, the so-called ‘digital dividend’, which can be used for mobile broadband.
The mobile industry is engaged in a huge global undertaking to make the Internet mobile. It is true that for some years we had the ability to connect to the Internet while on the move or away from our office or home, but this was not always smooth or compelling, and in most cases did not match the experience of fixed line access. All that changed as the capabilities and performance of initial 3G systems were extended to deliver a true mobile broadband experience. 3G/WCDMA represented the first step into mobile broadband; the first commercial system, launched in Japan in October 2001, was capable of 384 kbps peak data speed in the downlink direction. HSPA – High Speed Packet Access, the first evolution of 3G/WCDMA, is the leading 3G system globally, with well over 70 per cent share of the commercial networks market. Around 95 per cent of the world’s 3G/WCDMA networks have been upgraded for HSPA – there are now more than 250 commercial HSPA networks in 110 countries. More than 70 per cent of HSPA networks support peak downlink speeds of at least 3.6 Mbps, including more than one-third of networks which can support 7.2 Mbps or even higher data throughput. Users are flocking to mobile broadband. Operators throughout the world report that HSPA is driving higher data usage and ARPU growth on their networks. There are now more than 100 million HSPA subscriptions worldwide; it is only three years since the first HSPA network was launched. The early availability and rapid expansion of the supporting eco-system, particularly in the range and choice of HSPA user devices, have contributed enormously to the spread and take up of the mobile broadband market. We have identified 1,409 HSPA user devices on the market – a 121 per cent growth since April 2008. The number of suppliers increased from 110 to 169 companies in the same period. HSPA network deployments worldwide (GSA: January 2009) Mobile phones including smartphones 575 UMPCs 23 PC data cards and embedded modules 149 Notebooks 307 USB modems 189 Wireless routers/gateways 131 Femtocells 19 PMPs 10 Cameras with HSPA connectivity 6 Total 1409 HSPA devices by form factor (GSA: March 2009) Sixty-eight HSPA networks entered commercial service in 2008. The introduction in 2009 of Evolved HSPA systems, also known as eHSPA or HSPA+, increases HSPA’s maximum peak downlink speed to 21 Mbps. The previous maximum peak was 14.4 Mbps. HSPA+ uses a higher-order modulation called 64QAM, which calls for a network software upgrade. The first HSPA+ systems entered commercial service in Australia and Austria, and several more will follow during 2009. Here are now six user devices that support HSPA+. In the future, HSPA Evolution will use Multiple-Input/Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technologies, and multi-carrier functionality. With these improvements, even higher downlink speeds will be possible. MIMO will provide 42 Mbps peak downlink on a 5 MHz carrier when devices that support this speed become available. On the uplink, today’s peak of 5.76 Mbps increases to 11 Mbps using HSPA+ 16 QAM modulation (instead of QPSK), and further evolution beyond 20 Mbps is expected. LTE (Long Term Evolution) LTE will significantly improve network efficiency and offer higher capacity, data rate, throughput enhancements and reduced latency; it will support new services and features requiring higher levels of capability and performance. LTE enhances such demanding applications as interactive TV, mobile video blogging, advanced games and professional services. LTE reduces the cost per Gigabyte delivered, which is essential for addressing the mass market and forecast traffic growth. The new system supports a full IP-based network, and works with legacy 3GPP systems (GSM, GPRS/EDGE, WCDMA-HSPA) and other radio access technologies. LTE is the natural migration choice for GSM/HSPA network operators; it is also the next generation mobile broadband system of choice of many leading CDMA operators, which will be at the forefront of service introduction. LTE is on track, infrastructure vendors are now shipping LTE-compatible solutions to customers in Europe, Asia and North America. A GSA survey confirmed that 26 network operators have committed to deploy 3GPP LTE systems. Up to ten LTE networks will launch commercial services in Asia, Europe and North America during 2010. Mobile broadband spectrum WCDMA systems including HSPA are deployed in the 850, 900, 1700, 1800, 1900, and 2100 MHz bands. Most 3G/HSPA mobile broadband networks operate in the 2100 MHz band. New spectrum in the IMT extension band 2.50 – 2.69 GHz 2.6 GHz band is becoming available and of particular interest for high capacity mobile broadband access using such LTE. Using lower frequencies, e.g. 900 MHz or 850 MHz, provides a much larger coverage area compared to 2100 MHz. The 900 MHz band is widely used by GSM systems throughout Europe, Russia and CIS countries, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. 3G/HSPA deployment in the 900 MHz band (UMTS900) significantly reduces the number of cell sites needed to cover rural and suburban areas, which means substantial CAPEX and OPEX savings for 3G deployments. Many operators choose the complementary combination of 900 MHz and 2100 MHz, deploying 3G/HSPA in the 900 MHz band for lower cost wide area coverage, and 3G/HSPA in the 2100 MHz band for capacity in urban areas. Similar cost and coverage benefits apply for UMTS deployments in the 850 MHz band, such as those in Australia, across the Americas, and in some Asian markets. In the Americas, operators may also utilize the 1900 MHz band, or the 850/1900 MHz combination. In some countries, 900 MHz is also allocated. In Australia, Telstra has commercially launched the world’s biggest UMTS850 network using the 2100 MH band, while Optus uses the 900/2100 MHz combination. The 850 MHz spectrum is also available in Africa, Russia, the Middle East and Asia. Deployment of WCDMA-HSPA systems in the 900 MHz band requires regulatory approval in many countries, since this band is typically reserved for GSM use. Regulatory actions have been taken, or are underway in several markets and many countries now permit UMTS900 systems. By March 2009, eight UMTS900 systems had entered commercial service: Elisa (Estonia), Elisa (Finland), DNA (Finland), AIS (Thailand), Optus (Australia), Vodafone (New Zealand), Siminn (Iceland) and Digitel (Venezuela). Several more networks are in deployment. According to the GSA, 115 UMTS900 devices have been launched. UMTS900 is on the roadmap for most device manufacturers, and is becoming standard in most new 3G phones and data modems destined for Asian and European markets. The digital dividend The ‘digital dividend’ refers to spectrum in the 470 – 862 MHz bands currently used for TV broadcasting that will become available as a result of the switch from analogue to digital terrestrial transmissions. In Europe, Belgium (Flanders region), Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Sweden have switched over from analogue to digital TV transmissions. The EU 2012 target for switching-off analogue TV is expected to be met by almost all member states. Mobile network operators and governments expect it will be more economical to deploy mobile broadband in rural areas due to the favourable propagation characteristics of lower frequencies. In urban areas, indoor coverage also improves using these lower frequencies. By using part of the digital dividend frequencies, the mobile industry could dramatically speed up the rollout of broadband communications, increase coverage, and boost economic activity and productivity. This would still leave plenty of spectrum for broadcasters to develop and enhance their digital TV services. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference WRC-07 allocated the upper UHF sub-band of 790-862 MHz to Mobile Service for IMT use on a Primary basis in Region 1, which includes Europe, Africa, Middle East, Russia, and CIS countries. Finland, France, Sweden and Switzerland have confirmed they will allocate spectrum in the 790-862 MHz band for mobile broadband services. Consultations are underway in many other countries, including Germany and the UK. In North America, US implementation of the digital dividend began with the auction in 2008 of spectrum in the 700 MHz band. Verizon Wireless has confirmed plans to roll out LTE in the frequencies they obtained in that auction, as will AT&T Mobility. Users have confirmed their appetite for mobile broadband. Current demand is being satisfied with HSPA. In 2009, further improvements in network efficiency and performance arrive with HSPA+. LTE is the next step and is necessary for growth and reducing costs, with first networks expected to launch in 2010. Ensuring access to new spectrum including 2.6 GHz and digital dividend frequencies is critical to supporting growth and extending broadband access to mass markets.