LatAm joins Asia-Pacific in standardising LTE on 700MHz
As emerging markets deploy and expand their LTE networks, national regulators are gravitating towards the 700MHz band to provide spectrum harmonisation internationally.
This week, Chile’s telecoms regulator Subtel outlined its proposals for the expansion of LTE services in the country. Subtel plans to auction the 700MHz spectrum band for LTE services, which is also used for the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) band plan. Under the plan, frequencies in the 703MHz-748MHz range for uplink are paired with those in the 758MHz-803MHz band for downlink.
The spectrum will be freed by the country’s move from analogue TV services to digital, and allocated a licence by a public tender to cover the whole of Chile. With Subtel’s announcement, Chile follows in the footsteps of other nations in the Latin America region, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, and most recently, Brazil, which have also opted in to the APT 4G scheme.
Brazil’s Minister of Communications Paulo Bernardo last week officially sanctioned the use of the 700MHz band for mobile broadband services, and regulator Anatel has begun formulating how to define and allocate the frequency band for LTE use.
The switch from analogue to digital TV across Latin America will not be completed for a number of years, but Brazil’s government is looking to accelerate plans to switch off analogue signals in some parts of the country to July 2016.
Many Asian-Pacific countries have already committed to the APT plan. Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, Korea, Papua New Guinea have now either formally adopted or signalled their intent to use the 700MHz spectrum band for LTE services. Indonesia and Malaysia are yet to commit though, while China has indicated that it aims to introduce TDD technology in the 700MHz band.
Stefan Zehle, CEO at telecoms consultancy Coleago, believes that 700MHz is a promising spectrum band.
“Brazil’s decision means that the APT eco-system is gaining the scale which confirms it as a mainstream solution for LTE deployment,” he said. “This means the 700MHz APT band plan may appear in chipsets and more devices earlier rather than later.”
He added that with an allocation of 2x45MHz, the APT band plan is much better than the US 700MHz band plan.
“Not only is the US 700MHz plan inefficient in its overall use of spectrum, but matters are made worse because in part of the band the uplink and downlink are reversed,” said Zehle. “The device incompatibility issue with the US 700Mhz band plan is that it splits the market into those who follow the AT&T device eco-system and those who follow the Verizon eco-system. These are mutually exclusive because the AT&T devices do not have the Verizon 700Mhz blocks and vice versa. This means there is no harmonisation within the US.”
He added that other regions are reluctant to standardise on the US spectrum for these reasons, as the situation would “exported” to whichever country adopts the US 700Mhz band plan.