Blogging the 6th Annual European Spectrum Management Conference: Part 3

Morning session - 15 JuneThis morning session of the second day of the Forum Europe event was moderated by Janette Stewart of Analysys Mason. The first part focused on spectrum supply and demand, highlighted by keynote presentation from Fabio Leite, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. Andy Hudson, Vodafone’s Head of Spectrum Policy, also provided an operator’s perspective on mapping emerging needs for spectrum.  Mr. Hudson presented a holistic view of dealing with the spectrum crunch, focusing on three main pillars:  Improving site deployment (including backhaul), improving technology (refarming, offloading to fixed networks, improved device efficiency), and finally spectrum supply. 

Focusing on the spectrum supply, Mr. Hudson noted that most spectrum is still controlled by broadcasting and ministry of defense uses, and that governments have to make decisions among competing uses, all of which are legitimate. Regarding future demand, Mr. Hudson imagines an environment where:

everything is fiber with a wireless tail.

The wireless tail may be very short (eg. femtocells), or quite long (800 MHz).

Member of the European Parliament Catherine Trautmann urged spectrum users to avoid mantras about current usage, then spoke about the need to meet key priorities of efficiency, innovation and flexibility, while focusing on the EU need for new services and technology.

The session then moved to a panel discussion on “meeting the increasing market needs for wireless broadband.” One of the more interesting presentations was the view of the European Broadcast Union (PDF 405 kb), presented by Darko Ratkaj, a Senior Engineer for Broadcasting Technology in the EBU Technical Department. The EBU challenged some prevailing orthodoxy on the need for mobile broadband spectrum. At the start, the Mr. Ratkaj noted that “the looming lack of capacity in mobile broadband networks … cannot be resolved by more spectrum.” Referring to recent Cisco figures, he identified a huge gap between a 26-fold increase in demand for mobile data between 2010 and 2015, and at most a 2-fold increase in spectrum supply. His conclusion is that --

the mobile data ‘tsunami’ will not be tamed with more spectrum

The EBU focused closely on the type of traffic that will increase, in order to find solutions. Two-thirds of that data traffic will be video by 2015 and most generators of the traffic will be laptops and netbooks, again according to the Cisco estimates. Mr. Ratkaj argued that most of this traffic will be received indoors – but it is inefficient to use outdoor transmitters to provide indoor coverage.

After pointing to a variety of ways to increase network capacity (improved configurations, upgrades, handoffs, etc.), Mr. Ratkaj pointed out that capacity shortages are mainly happening only in dense urban areas where fixed broadband infrastructure is in place. The real coverage problems are in rural areas, where 800 MHz and 900 MHz band are sufficient

This led to the real meat of the presentation – the EBU view that terrestrial TV (DTT) and mobile broadband are complementary:

... DTT could compensate for the weaknesses of mobile broadband

- coverage - DTT networks already cover most of the population

- QoS - optimised for the delivery of high quality video

- costs – DTT is cost effective for mass delivery

... DTT networks use the spectrum very efficiently

Mobile broadband and digital should be combined!

The conclusion of his presentation is that numerous benefits could come from the broadcasting distribution and mobile broadband sector cooperating rather than fighting over spectrum. He pointed to less investment being needed, reducing strain on mobile broadband networks and decreased risk of interference, among other possible benefits.

Other speakers both here and in other events have opposed further mobile broadband spectrum grabs from the 700 MHz band in Europe.  By contrast, this EBU position could lead to collaboration. Mr. Ratkaj's presentation was immediately grasped as a more conciliatory approach. As Ratkaj said, “the message I want you to take home is that mobile broadband and digital broadcast should be combined.”

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