Refarming UHF Spectrum: Wireless Opportunities & Challenges for 4G

With more countries starting the auction process, the U.K. announced its intention in April, to sell off recently vacated prime 800MHz spectrum, seen by many as vital for rural wireless broadband expansion. This is happening as a consequence of the switchover from analog to digital broadcasting technology. In many countries this has already happened and globally is expected to be completed before the end of the decade. With the change in technology, broadcasters have the ability to transmit a greater number of channels, thus satisfying public demand, while using less spectrum. It is this development that is making spectrum available and is referred to in some regions as the “Digital Dividend.”

UHF spectrum, 700MHz to 900MHz, is attractive to many users because it covers what is known as the “sweet spot” for radio transmission. This sweet spot is where the ideal balance between range, bandwidth and cost resides. It is for this reason that this particular spectrum is so attractive to many users. The main competing demands for this spectrum are from broadcasters wishing to deliver HDTV using the DVB-T2 protocol (or similar) and cellular network operators looking to deploy LTE. There are however other interesting proposals such as white space usage.

Importantly, it is not just the competing interests for this spectrum that need to be considered, but also the effect of these new services on the many millions of pieces of existing equipment that are out there in the market place that users will expect to be able to be used for some years to come. These factors are explored in greater detail in a recent white paper from Aviat Networks that covers both the technical and organizational issues raised by this process and how they have been tackled in a number of major markets around the globe

Ian Marshall

Regulatory Manager, Aviat Networks

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Time for a Backhaul Reality Check

The introduction of new high-speed 4G mobile technologies is gathering pace, but there are indications that many operators still do not have a clear understanding of what impact this will have on their backhaul networks. With the forecasted demise of copper-based backhaul in U.S. networks, operators are faced with the critical decision between deploying either fiber or microwave to the cell-site.

The problem lies in the uncertainty surrounding what the true future capacity needs for 4G/LTE will be. Misreading this requirement could ultimately lead to over-building backhaul capacity, resulting in the waste of enormous amounts of network investments; money that instead could be put into more substantive ways of increasing network capacity, such as investing in new spectrum.

Driven by this uncertainty, operators risk making commitments that lock in the high lifecycle costs of building or leasing fiber – costs that far exceed that of a typical microwave connection. In reality, deploying fiber to the cellsite due to concerns about running out of backhaul capacity is a significant overkill. Based upon the 4G technologies and deployment scenarios, it is possible to predict what the maximum backhaul needs for 4G sites will be, meaning that in many cases operators can avoid a budget burden that they must live with for years to come.

So when it comes to backhaul need for 4G what is needed is a “dose of reality,” that then enables optimal backhaul network planning that balances realistic capacity expectations with total cost.

Check back for the second part of this post next week, when I take a look at some of the things that are driving this uncertainty.

Stuart Little

Director of Marketing, Aviat Networks

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