Why Airtel, Vodafone And Idea Should Deploy 4G LTE Using 900 MHz?

Why-Airtel,-Vodafone-And-Idea-Should-Deploy-4G-LTE-Using-900-MHz?Globally 17 operators in 12 countries have commercially launched 4G LTE using 900 MHz spectrum (3GPP band 8) according to GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association).

There is a growing traction for deploying LTE in 900 MHz band and incumbent Indian mobile operators like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea should also look at deploying LTE using 900 MHz band.

Globally, 900 MHz band is used for GSM voice and basic data mobile communications and with technology neutral licensing 900 MHz is becoming a mainstream spectrum choice for mobile broadband using HSPA/HSPA+ (UMTS900) with excellent propagation characteristics for wide area coverage in rural areas and in-building penetration both in rural and urban areas. 100 UMTS900 networks are commercially launched in 64 countries.

900 MHz spectrum is typically limited due to its use for GSM, however using 900 MHz as an LTE band is gaining traction amongst operators and the main infrastructure vendors all offer LTE900 solutions. 17 operators have commercially launched LTE using 900 MHz either as a single band system or as part of a multi-band deployment.

Operators Launching LTE Using 900 MHz
17 operators have commercially launched LTE using 900 MHz band in countries like Australia, Czech Republic, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Sweden and Taiwan.

LTE Deployment In 900 MHz
Country – LTE900 Operator
Australia – Telstra
Czech Republic – Vodafone
Hong Kong (China) – Smartone
Indonesia – Indosat Ooredoo
Indonesia – Telkomsel
Indonesia – XL Axiata
Liechtenstein – Swisscom
Netherlands – T-Mobile
Norway – Ice.net
Singapore – Singtel
Slovenia – Telekom Slovenije
South Korea – KT
Sweden – Tele2
Sweden – TeleNor
Taiwan – Ambit Microsystems
Taiwan – Chunghwa Telecom
Taiwan – Taiwan Star
Source: GSA

With many GSM licenses approaching expiry dates, regulators are increasingly allow technology neutrality on renewal or auction off returned spectrum with technology neutral licenses.

Many operators are deploying or considering using 900 MHz for LTE deployments where feasible to improve the user experience of mobile broadband and efficiently use network and spectrum assets. LTE-Advanced deployments is a key industry trend. Carrier aggregation enables operators to efficiently combine spectrum assets residing in different bands, including 900 MHz, with various bandwidths, even relatively small amounts, to increase spectrum allocations and deliver even higher LTE speeds.

Future 4G Operators In 900 MHz
Apart from 12 countries, many country regulators are helping mobile operators by providing technology neutral licenses.

Albania: In August 2014 regulator Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) approved the refarming of GSM bands (900 MHz, 1800 MHz) for LTE
Angola: On December 18, 2013 Unitel demonstrated LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation by combining 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum on its live network
Australia: In February 2013, Telstra announced plans to deploy LTE in re-farmed 900 MHz spectrum – some sites are running now. In July 2013, Telstra demonstrated carrier aggregation using 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum. In July 2014, Telstra announced plans to close its 2G/GSM network by end 2016
Austria: On July 28, 2014, RTR approved proposals by the incumbent mobile operators to refarm their existing GSM spectrum for 3G and 4G/LTE use. 3 Austria will gain additional 900 MHz spectrum in early 2016 which will be used for coverage enhancement
Bahrain: Batelco, Viva and Zain received permits in 2013 to deploy LTE networks using 900 MHz
Belarus: More 900 and 1800 MHz spectrum is expected to be allocated
Belgium: Telenet trialled LTE in 2010 and in June 2011 acquired 900, 1800, and 2100 MHz spectrum
Bulgaria: 900 MHz is an option for LTE deployment
Colombia: MinTIC published the conditions for the proposed auction of spectrum in the 700 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,900 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands
Croatia: HAKOM launched a consultation into use of 900 MHz (and 1800 MHz) for LTE
Cyprus: PrimeTel acquired technology-neutral 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz spectrum
Denmark: Hi3G Denmark has been granted 900 and 1800 MHz spectrum, which could be used to deploy 2G, 3G or LTE technologies nationally
Estonia: Tele2 may also deploy LTE in 450 MHz, 900 MHz and 2.3 GHz spectrum in addition to 2.1 GHz presently in commercial use
Germany: Regulator BNetz auctioned 270 MHz of 700, 900 and 1800 MHz spectrum in 2015. All three incumbent operators acquired spectrum in these bands. Telekom and Vodafone each obtained 20 MHz of 1.5 GHz TDD spectrum which can be combined with existing LTE spectrum assets using carrier aggregation or could be used in small cell solutions or for LTE Broadcast
Guatemala: Regulator SIT said suitable bands for LTE include 900 MHz
Hungary: In 2014 NMHH held an auction of 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum. Magyar Telekom won 800, 900, 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz; Vodafone won 800, 900 MHz and 2.6 GHz; Telenor won 800, 900 MHz and 2.6 GHz; and DiGi (new market entrant) won 1800 MHz
India: A consultation on November 26, 2015 on possible auction of 700, 800, 900, 1800 MHz, 2.1, 2.3, and 2.5 GHz
Ireland: An auction by ComReg in 2012 concluded with Hutchison 3, Meteor, Telefonica and Vodafone each receiving 900 MHz spectrum (and 1800 MHz)
Japan: Softbank Mobile owns licences to operate mobile systems in 2.1 GHz FDD (band 1), 1.5 GHz (band 11) and 900 MHz (band 8). LTE is launched in band 1
Lithuania: Tele2 may deploy LTE in 900 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum in addition to its bands currently used for LTE. RRT is consulting on a proposed sale of 900 and 1800 MHz spectrum that incumbents can use until October 31, 2017
Malaysia: MCMC is consulting on re-farming 850/900/1800 MHz
Moldova: Orange acquired additional spectrum for LTE in 800 MHz and 900 MHz in November 2015. Moldcell commercially launched LTE for corporate users using 2.6 GHz on November 16, 2012. Commercial service was extended to all customers on December 24, 2012. Moldcell acquired new spectrum licenses for use from November 6, 2014 continuing use of 900 MHz and buying new technology-neutral band 3 & band 20 spectrum. Moldcell will abandon using 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz. Moldtelecom (Unite) is expected to receive new 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum shortly
Norway: Telenor, TeliaSonera and Telco Data each won new 900 MHz spectrum in 2013. 900 MHz licences currently allocated to Telenor and TeliaSonera expire in 2017. Nkom opened a consultation in June 2015 and published the final conditions in October 2015 concerning the planned sale of that 900 MHz spectrum (which would be available for use from January 1, 2018) in 2016
Romania: Orange, Vodafone and Cosmote obtained new 900 MHz spectrum. RCS & RDS plans to deploy LTE900 MHz spectrum but 3G is the current priority
Russia: Technology neutrality applies to the 900 MHz band following a similar earlier decision for 1800 MHz
Singapore: M1, Singtel and StarHub announced they will close 2G/GSM services from April, 2017 with spectrum to be refarmed for 3G/HSPA and 4G/LTE. Operators’ rights to use 900 MHz expire in April 2017. IDA plans to auction this spectrum and 700 MHz (APT700). Incentives are proposed to encourage a new player. Bidding is expected to take place in early 2016. On 28th July 2015 Singtel announced commercial launch of LTE service using 900 MHz within a tri-band 337 Mbps Category 9 LTE network
Slovenia: AKOS auctioned additional 900 MHz spectrum in April 2014 to Si.mobil, Telekom Slovenije and Tusmobil
South Korea: In the area where KT provides 20 MHz wideband LTE services, KT also provides 10 MHz multi-carrier service by bringing into use 10 MHz of 900 MHz band 8 spectrum. In addition KT is using Carrier Aggregation to combine 10 MHz B3 and 10 MHz B8 in the other area where 20 MHz wideband is not used. KT plans to support 20 MHz B3 combined with 10 MHz B8, subject to availability of UE terminals. KT commercially launched 3-band 300 Mbps LTE-Advanced service in the major areas of 85 cities with availability of commercial Cat 6 compatible Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phones on January 23, 2015. The LG G Plex2 Cat 6 phone was offered from January 30, 2015. The 300 Mbps service had been available from December 28, 2014 for users with non-commercial terminals to experience the tri-band carrier aggregation performance. The service combines 10 MHz B1 + 20 MHz B3 + 10 MHz B8
Spain: Vodafone plans to refarm 900 MHz for rural mobile broadband coverage. Additional 900 MHz spectrum was acquired by Vodafone, Telefonica and Orange following an auction. Orange also intends to soon bring into service refarmed 2.1 GHz, 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz spectrum for LTE
Thailand: Two 900 MHz licenses were auctioned in December 2015 and won by True Move and fixed operator Jasmine (Jas Mobile)
Turkey: BTK auctioned 390 MHz of 800, 900, 1,800, 2,100 and 2,600 MHz LTE spectrum on August 26, 2015. Avea, Turkcell and Vodafone acquired 900 MHz
UK: operators are allowed to refarm 900 MHz for LTE networks. A 3dB increase in maximum transmit power when using 900 MHz spectrum is allowed
Ukraine: some operators are seeking technology neutrality principles for 900 MHz to allow LTE
Uruguay: Antel paid for a reserved block of 900 MHz spectrum following an auction in March 2013

LTE900 Device Eco-system:
4,416 LTE user devices including frequency and operator variants from 369 suppliers are verified as announced by GSA. The smartphone is the largest LTE device category. 2,706 smartphones including operator and frequency variants are announced. The LTE tablet PC segment is also fast-growing.

On the devices front, around 22 percent of LTE user devices can operate in 900 MHz spectrum i.e 962 devices. The supporting user devices ecosystem confirms growing industry traction for deploying LTE systems in 900 MHz band. There are 578 LTE900 smartphones which is equivalent to over 60 percent share of all LTE900 devices. 98 (i.e. over 10 percent) of LTE900 devices are tablet PCs.

The existing LTE900 operators and future LTE900 operators plans globally along with LTE900 device eco-system should give lot of confidence to Indian mobile operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular to use 900 MHz either as a single band system or as part of a multi-band deployment.

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