2008: The Year of UMTS at 900 MHz

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2008: The Year of UMTS at 900 MHz

With Finland's Elisa launching the first UMTS network at 900 MHz last month, the push is on for operators to make the most of their spectrum assets and begin the transition from GSM900 MHz to UMTS900 MHz. Experts that participated in last week's FierceMarkets Webinar on this topic all agreed that in 2008 we will see many operators following Elisa's lead.

However, Jake Saunders, vice president, Asia-Pacific, for ABI Research warned that 83 percent of the subscribers Western Europe are GSM and that operators need to find a balance when they transition to UMTS so that they don't lose those customers. "Many carriers want to move to UMTS in the 900 MHz but that would mean that there would be a chunk of spectrum that is not available to GSM phones," Saunders said. "Operators have to strike a balance between the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum band."

But Saunders added that there is a huge incentive for operators to make this switch because UMTS at 900 MHz provides much better in-building coverage and its less expensive to deploy. That point was echoed by Dr. Eetu Prieur, head of radio networks at Elisa, who said that an operator can build out the same coverage at one-third the cost when they build out their UMTS900 network vs. 2100 MHz. The reason for the cost savings is that operators need fewer cell sites. In addition, much of the existing GSM equipment such as antennas, feeders and repeaters can be reused.

Prieur added that Elisa currently has one Nokia device, the 6121, for its UMTS900 network. However, he said that in 2008 the operator expects there will be numerous data cards and handsets launched that will support this network.

If you want to hear more about Elisa's UMTS900 deployment, check out this Webinar. -Sue