Spending the digital dividend too slowly | ATDI

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ATDI’s pioneering analysis in ensuring 4G phone networks do not interfere with existing broadcast services is coming to the fore as continental Europe follows the UK into Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile communications.

The company used its planning and modelling expertise to advise one mountainous country how to successfully introduce 4G; ATDI’s definition of potential problems and suggested mitigation techniques were a central to the national regulator’s spectrum auction.

This issue is now crucial in other countries as continental European regulators look to follow the UK’s lead in releasing the 800 MHz digital dividend spectrum that is the optimum frequency for LTE networks. Indeed, there is criticism that regulators are being too slow to make this band available. Research company Wireless Intelligence suggests that the 800 MHz band is used in less than 10 per cent of commercially launched LTE networks on the continent and accounts for less than 1 per cent of total mobile connections. Wireless Intelligence forecasts that less than 20 per cent of total mobile connections in the region will have migrated to LTE by 2017.

ATDI technical director Nick Kirkman comments: “It is not surprising that some regulators are taking their time over this. No spectrum release is ever easy and this one is particularly delicate as the frequencies in the band will be sold for very considerable sums – and the buyers will shape the whole mobile market in their country for years to come. There’s a lot of politics and finance to deal with in addition to all the technical issues. But why the UK got there ahead of some of the continental countries is an issue that is down to the individual regulators.”

Germany reaped a rapid digital dividend by an early switch off of analogue television but other countries have not shown the same alacrity. The European Commission’s Radio Spectrum Policy Program required all 27 European Union member states to make the 800 MHz band available for mobile broadband services by January 2 this year. However, 18 countries, which represent almost half of total mobile connections in the region, have missed the deadline.

“The process of selling the 800 MHz band is absolutely not a one-size-fits-all,” Nick notes. “Every country has different topography to consider as well as different population densities all wrapped up in the individual nation’s prevailing political and economic climate. While planning and modelling is a delicate process, it is at least very precise. Regulators also have to deal with a variety of human factors that are far less so.”

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