European operators unite around 1800MHz as core band for LTE

Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and TeliaSonera have collectively called for vendors to fast-track LTE devices in the 1800MHz band as a priority for LTE, alongside those for 800MHz and 2.6GHz.

At the LTE World Summit in Amsterdam, Bart Weijermars, managing director of Deutsche Telekom Netherlands, announced the initiative, which is designed to pressure device manufacturers to speed up their development of 1800 MHZ LTE devices and also has the support of the GSMA.

According to a Mobile Europe report, Weijermars said that refarming 1800MHz spectrum would be "more attractive" than waiting around for auctions in the 2.6GHz and 800MHz bands.

The report further cited Tommy Ljunggren, vice president of system development at TeliaSonera, who laid out a three-band model for LTE, which would see his company use 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2.6GHz. This is similar to a plan described by Telenor last year when it told Huawei's customer conference in Europe that it envisaged a multi-layered network. This would comprise:

  • A national backbone network provided by 900MHz GSM and 800MHz LTE
  • An urban and semi-urban overlay using UMTS 2100MHz and 1800MHz LTE
  • Hotspots for traffic-heavy city centres using 2.6GHz LTE

The ability of more of Europe's operators to follow such a blueprint depends on their original GSM allocation,s as those that entered at the second round of 2G spectrum allocations only hold 1800MHz and therefore don't have 900MHz to use as a backbone. However, there are more than enough to push 1800MHz as a priority as operators are drawn by its attractive combination of cost, coverage and capacity.

However, if yet another 'God Send Mobiles' situation is to be avoided, operators need vendors to support the band with devices and to do so quickly. The fact that operators have felt the need make such a public statement suggests that the preference for 1800MHz has caught vendors somewhat by surprise, although consolidation around this band has been building.

In a survey of 150 operators and 50 national regulators, Informa found that core bands for LTE are concentrating around the 700-800MHz, 1800-2100MHz and 2.5-2.6GHz bands. Although more than half of the mobile operators surveyed said they were planning to launch LTE in the 2.6GHz band initially, increasingly operators are looking outside of this to offer LTE beyond urban hotpots.

The research highlighted this trend and pointed to Germany's spectrum auction as a proof point, where, it said, some operators placed a higher value on spectrum around 800MHz than around 2.6GHz.

For more:
- see this Mobile Europe article
- see this Mobile Communications International article
- see this separate Mobile Communications International article
- see the Mobile Business Briefing article

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