Surge of support for 700MHz spectrum plan

Two billion favour APT 700 plan for digital dividend spectrum, but US chooses 'suboptimal' path, says regulator.
Written by Rob O'Neill, Contributor

Asia Pacific countries are at the forefront of mapping the global future of wireless spectrum released by the “digital dividend” - the switchover from analog to digital TV broadcasting.

Chris Chapman, chairman of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, said the APT 700 (Asia Pacific Telecommunity 700 MHz) spectrum plan is now being adopted or seriously considered in markets with a combined population just over 2 billion people and growing.

“The potential, and increasingly the reality, is that the APT 700 plan will become the foundation of a device ecosystem far greater than that possible with the only available alternative for the band, namely the sub-optimal US 700 MHz band plan,” Chapman told the IIC International Regulators Forum in London.

APT 700, formalized in 2010, is an internationally-harmonized 700MHz spectrum band plan optimised for mobile broadband.

Mobile market analysts GSMA Intelligence says the momentum behind the adoption of APT 700 - within and outside of Asia - is “hinting at a brighter 4G LTE future”.

Up to half of global LTE 4G connections projected to come from Asia in five years and Asian 4G LTE connections are expected to increase almost tenfold between 2013 and 2017, to around half a billion connections.

However, almost nine out of ten commercial LTE networks in Asia are running on frequencies above 1 GHz. One exception, however, is South Korea, where lower frequency LTE deployments are more common.

Higher frequencies are suited to servicing urban and suburban areas where significant network capacity is required. 700 MHz and 900 MHz spectrum, however, can deliver cost-effective indoor coverage in cities and rural coverage with fewer base stations.

Chapman said many countries within the region have either committed to APT 700, announced adoption of variants of the plan that will retain much, if not all, of the plan’s harmonisation benefits or are actively considering adoption.

New Zealand and India have recently formally committed while Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have jointly announced a commitment to align with APT 700. They are in addition to Japan, Korea, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Tonga, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan.

That success is driving acceptance in other regions, Chapman said.

“I note recent reports that the UAE has become the first country in Europe, the Middle East and Africa to adopt the APT 700 frequency plan for its 700 MHz band and the European CEPT plan for the 800 MHz band while Sub-Saharan African countries have announced a replan of their TV broadcasting that will similarly allow them to adopt either APT 700 or EU 800, or a combination of both.”

It is similar in Latin America, where Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guam, Panama, Venezuela and Mexico have either committed or indicated their intention to commit.

Chapman said the technical benefits of APT 700 could have been realized if Australia had gone it alone. Harmonizing with neighbours, however, ensures phone manufacturers will cater to the Australian market.

“One of the key benefits from such spectrum harmonization efforts is economic, and the wider the global spectrum organization around the APT plan, the greater the commensurate economic benefits,” he said.

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