Three focus areas in Latin America for spectrum planning, says Qualcomm

Monday, November 21, 2011

There are three spectrum areas in which Latin American countries can develop in order to move forward and get the most out of all that mobile broadband has to offer, thereby driving economic growth, Bill Bold, senior VP of government affairs at Qualcomm, said during a webinar.

In one area, the AWS spectrum or that in 1,700-2,100 MHz, "needs to be made available as quickly as possible so Latin America can keep pace with the rest of the world," he said during the presentation of "Mobile broadband: Benefits of spectrum planning." However, Latin America does not have a unified band plan, he noted, with some Latin American countries such as Brazil having a mix of frequency arrangements.

Brazil has opted for the European approach to PCS licensing in the 1,800 MHz band, and freeing up the core UMTS (1,900-2,100 MHz) band, while other Latin American countries have adhered to the so-called American band plan, making 1,900 and 2,100 MHz available.

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In another area, some 484-577 MHz of total spectrum can be made available in three bands - 2,600, 700 and 450 MHz, which can provide for "timely and cost effective deployment of LTE as quickly as possible," Bold said.

The 2,600 MHz frequency would work well for dense, urban areas with intense traffic; Colombia has made it available and Europe overall is also making this available. Meanwhile the 700 MHz spectrum - or the digital dividend left from digital TV transition - can be key for more expansive coverage and deployment of LTE, with the US having auctioned the band and the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (Citel) working on a harmonized plan to realize economies of scale.

And the 450 spectrum will be important for governments to cover rural and other difficult areas of coverage. Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador have all made advances in this spectrum, but regional interest really piqued when Brazil defined this spectrum as a priority for universal coverage and set auctions for April next year.

The last area - 2,300 MHz - is one that has overall gone unexplored in Latin America, although there have been developments in India, limited development in China and interest in Southeast Asia, Bold said. This spectrum "will be critical given the availability in Asia," he added, and there is a real opportunity here for Latin American countries to lead rather than follow in identifying new spectrum.

"Mobile broadband needs to be thought of as a critical infrastructure that enables services across the economy, from education to health, to public safety and transportation. Mobile broadband has to be a part of government planning in all of these areas," the Qualcomm executive said, adding that there is a pressing need to harmonize and tender more spectrum to support the exponential growth in data traffic.

The amount of 3G CDMA subscribers is expected to surge 379% between 2010 and 2015 in Latin America, he said, while smartphone sales in emerging markets are slated to expand at a CAGR of 40%.

"The explosion of mobile data traffic has the promise of really revolutionizing economic development in Latin America. Spectrum... is really a pillar of economic development," said Bold. "Those countries that make spectrum available on a timely and harmonized basis will have a stronger economic foundation moving forward than those who do not. That is the opportunity in front of Latin America today."