How to enhance mobile broadband spectrum utilization

Mobile usage over LTE networks is fuelling an incredible demand for data, which in turn fuels demand for fast, flawless network and systems performance. Meeting such ever-increasing customer expectations requires Indian telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Aircel, Idea Cellular, etc. to adapt at both the operational and systems levels. Spectrum utilization is one of the main tools to improve performance.

Lack of spectrum and spectrum utilization has already impacted satisfaction among telecom users in India.

Spectrum utilization connects with customer satisfaction. In a highly competitive market like India, where there is no significant differentiation among telecom service offerings, spectrum utilization gains attraction.

Leonid Musatov, chief marketing & sales officer – MTS India, says MTS 3GPLUS network will redefine the way customers experience mobile broadband as it rolls out MBlaze Ultra across India. This network empowers MTS to provide an enhanced consumer experience with even higher speeds, superior indoor penetration and outdoor coverage.

Spectrum challenges

But there are spectrum related challenges.

Telecom industry body GSMA says India is already the second largest market in the world in terms of mobile connections and unique subscribers, with nearly 900 million mobile connections and 350 million subscribers.

With improved spectrum pricing and management, growth of mobile broadband services is expected to continue, with 3G and 4G adoption projected to increase by 31 per cent – from 107 million 3G and 4G connections in 2013 to 409 million connections in 2017.

As per NSN MBiT Index study, mobile data (2G & 3G) growth in India almost doubled in 2012 registering a growth rate of 92 percent y-o-y, an increase majorly propelled by uptake of 3G. With further improvement in the ecosystem (network coverage, devices, local content), 3G is poised well to expand further.

Samar Mittal, head of Sales Development India Region at NSN, says there has been a significant increase in demands for radio spectrum. However, India needs to get more spectrum to catch up with other markets. In this context, we recommend optimizing the levels of current spectrum utilization through the following steps:

Mobile-phone user

To further spectrum efficiency, it would augur well to look measure the effectiveness of features like radio-air interface, encoding of digital data within a certain amount of spectrum and the density of information delivered across different areas.

Developing and optimizing practical techniques aimed at mitigating interference in wireless networks on mobile phones will go a long way in utilizing mobile broadband spectrum more efficiently, said NSN’s Samar Mittal.

Harmonizing spectrum wherever possible involves looking into various aspects of the contiguous spectrum to optimize spectrum availability by using the same spectrum bands and channels. Such an approach is crucial to lowering equipment development and production costs.

Drawing on alternate densification technologies like Wi-Fi are an efficient way of optimizing spectrum use as they complement spectrum use to provide a better experience to mobile users.

India’s telecom panel has given a green light for spectrum sharing. Sharing spectrum through carefully commercial or leasing agreements, and selling spectrum purchased through platforms like auctions, will be extremely beneficial in terms of enabling spectrum reuse in the face of rising demand.

Given the inherent uncertainty of any forecast of the future, the goal would be to not to reach definitive numeric findings of spectrum need and economic benefit, but to make a reasonable demonstration that mobile data demand is likely to exceed capacity under current spectrum availability in the near‐term, and that meeting this demand by making additional spectrum available is likely to create significant economic value, according to CA Technologies.

The broadband spectrum deficit is likely to approach 300 MHz by 2014, that making available additional spectrum for mobile broadband would create value in excess of $100B in the next five years through avoidance of unnecessary costs.

The development of Mobile Broadband Networks (MBB) is burgeoning with rapid increase of users and popularization of intelligent terminals. The explosive growth of data services is in demand due to online videos, online payments, personal clouds, HTML5, and O2O, etc. A superior quality of user experience (QoE) requires faster network access, wider network coverage, and larger network capacities. Additional large spectrum resources and improved technologies for spectrum efficiency are also necessary to support evolution to 3G/4G network technologies.

Spectrum resources are valuable resources available to the mobile telecom field, and represent one of the largest investments in terms of TCO. Spectrum lease costs account for approximately 30 percent of operators’ overall costs, and are gradually becoming a burden that they can no longer afford to carry.