A week may be a long time in politics but it wouldn’t be enough for the radiocommunications industry to find its boots let alone set out on a journey.
The business is, then, facing what ATDI managing director Peter Paul describes as a “long, slow walk” to the release of the 700MHz band to mobile network operators so they can continue to feed their customers’ voracious appetite for data. UK regulator Ofcom announced on November 19 its intention to allocate the spectrum for this purpose and says in a statement:
“Our objective is to make the band available for mobile by the start of 2022 and sooner if possible. Given the substantial amount of effort that will be required to give effect to this decision, we will begin implementation work immediately.”
Peter notes: “That seven-year-or-so preparation period will be vital and can’t be rushed. The network operators are going to love having the 700MHz band because the signal travels further meaning they will be able to save money by having fewer base stations, particularly in rural areas. But, because the signal travels further, there are a lot of international implications. It’s only 22 miles from a mobile phone mast in Dover to a television set in Calais and they will be working in the same frequency band. Even countries further afield like Belgium, the Netherlands and up into Scandinavia will have to be considered.”
Peter adds that various international agreements, the Geneva Accord prime among them, cover such cross-border interference situations but, nonetheless, “we will have to move slowly and the timescales for implementation will necessarily be long.”
The solutions will involve internationally-agreed parameters for transmitter power, he notes, and clear definitions of exported interference limits which spectrum users on both sides of the Channel and the North Sea will have to adhere to.
“These issues are always as much about politics as they are about planning and modelling,” Peter says. “Even with ATDI’s 20 years of successfully handling both the engineering and the negotiations, this would be a slow, deliberate walk not a hasty trot.”
Asked whether the new resources will be enough to meet the mobile network operators’ needs into the medium term, he responds:
“It’s never enough. The more spectrum they have the more data services they provide and the more customer expectations rise. Already this sector has taken the 800MHz band and will get 700MHz sooner or later and there is nothing written anywhere that says it can’t have the 600MHz band too.”