Broadcasters should help operators meet spectrum crunch, says GSMA

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Operators should be given spectrum from broadcasters to feed forthcoming demand for capacity, as viewing habits and technologies change, the GSMA has said.

Roberto Ercole, Senior Director for Spectrum Regulation at GSMA, said operators faced a "very difficult" but essential job in identifying between 50-100MHz of bandwidth as networks feel the strain of booming demand for smartphones and tablets. 

He said action needed to be taken and backed claims by European Commision digital chief Neelie Kroes that Europe was falling behind the rest of the world in terms of mobile broadband.

Ercole was speaking at the Westminster eForum's event on the UK mobile sector, which was held in London, and he said operators needed to have a piece of the ultra high frequency band. The band is between 470-790 MHz, with the 700MHz chunk of spectrum being used by digital broadcasters in the UK. 

However, Ercole said changing methods of viewing television, as well as new ways of broadcasting television could mean that spectrum could easily be freed up. He commented: "With regards to the ultra-high frequencies that will be made available, it depends on the future of broadcasting but I see their long-term trends moving towards the internet and satellite and there's scope for some of this spectrum to be provided for mobile broadband."

He added that Wi-Fi could serve a purpose, but the sector's involvement would be secondary in meeting capacity: "Wi-Fi is a very good service but to a large extent, it's complementary. There are limitations to it – it's a shared resource and it's not always easy to guarantee quality of service. The cells are very small so you can't guarantee wide service."

Parts of the ultra high frequency band could be up for grabs following the World Radiocommunication Conference in November 2015. Former European Commissioner Pascal Lamy has been tasked with chairing an advisory board whose role is to find consensus on its use. The group is set to release a report by July 2014.

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