EU: Global LTE Roaming at 1.8 GHz

The European Commission has ruled that member states must allow 4G devices to access both 900 and 1,800 MHz radio frequencies by the end of the year.

Mobile wireless capability is central to the EU’s Digital Agenda and it believes that an increase in Internet uptake will boost competitiveness of the EU’s common market.

Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for the EU’s Digital Agenda, said in a statement (pdf) that the “the decision opens the way for the latest 4G mobile devices to gain access to the radio spectrum they need to operate.”

The decision forces countries that haven’t started opening up these bands for 4G to get going, according to Urban Landmark, head of the spectrum department at Swedish regulator PTS. It also simplifies cooperation along national borders and gives an incentive for vendors to start manufacturing more equipment, he said.

The 1800MHz band is being pitched as an international band for global LTE roaming. The band offers a good compromise between speed and coverage, when operators are each assigned two 20MHz channels.

In the USA (above), the PCS band (1850-1990 MHz) is divided into six frequency blocks (A through F). Each block is between 10 MHz and 30 MHz bandwidth. The AWS bands, auctioned in the summer of 2006, use 1710-1755 MHz, and 2110-2155 MHz and consist of another six frequency blocks, with either 2×10 MHz or 2×5 MHz channels.

The NTIA has selected 1755-1850 MHz as a priority for a detailed evaluation of whether it can be repurposed for commercial broadband use. The 1755-1850 MHz band is currently used by the Department of Defense, Federal law enforcement agencies, and other agencies for a variety of satellite, surveillance, aeronautical operations, fixed microwave and other operations.

Frequencies below 1GHz provide good indoor coverage, but there is no band below 1GHz that is widely used globally. The 2.6GHz band, which IS internationally standardized, comes at the cost of diminished indoor performance.

The LTE Forum conference last week in Stockholm, promoted global LTE roaming by refarming existing spectrum bands for LTE service, with 1.8 GHz a common band for roaming.

In the end, despite the promise of the 1.8GHz band, no one frequency used for LTE is likely to offer global roaming. Products will have to support multiple frequencies. Huawei is working on a modem that will support a combination of the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1.8GHz, 2.1GHz and 2.6GHz band on a mix of GSM, 3G and LTE networks. But it would still leave users without LTE coverage in the U.S. — for that, 700MHz also has to be added to the list.

According to the NTIA (pdf), the process to obtain a new WRC agenda item, conduct and complete necessary ITU technical, operational and procedural studies, and obtain an international allocation and/or regulatory provisions in the Radio Regulations is a 6-8 year process.

According to the European Commission, mobile telephony and the Internet represent 5 percent of the bloc’s GDP, with a market value of 660 billion euros ($946 billion) annually.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

Leave a Reply