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Spectrum policy for wireless growth

Written by  Suvi Lindén
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Suvi LindénIssue:Europe I 2010
Article no.:1
Topic:Spectrum policy for wireless growth
Author:Suvi Lindén
Title:Minister of Communications
Organisation:Finland
PDF size:226KB

About author

Suvi Lindén is Finland’s Minister of Communications. She served previously as Finland’s Minister of Culture. Ms Lindén is a member of the National Coalition Party and has been a Member of Parliament since 1995. In Parliament Ms Lindén has been Chair of the Education and Culture Committee, and Vice Chair of the parliamentary group of the National Coalition Party. Ms Lindén has also been Member of the Speaker’s Council, Foreign Affairs Committee, Committee for the Future, Transport and Communications Committee, Environment Committee, and the Finnish Delegation to the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region.Ms Lindén has held positions of trust in a number of organisations. These include positions as Chair of the Ubiquitous Information Society Advisory Board, Member of the Board of the Finnish Cultural Heritage Foundation, Chair of the Vocational Education and Training Board and Member of the Oulu City Council, to mention only her more recent duties. Ms Lindén holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Oulu.

 

Article abstract

Effective communications policy is the key to promoting successful development of wireless communications. It is particularly important to ensure adequate access to spectrum. Finland’s priority is to allocate new frequency ranges to mobile communications; the 800 band, the ex- analogue television broadcasting ‘digital dividend’ frequencies, were recently allocated to mobile communications. To take advantage of today’s rapid technological evolution, Finland has opted for technological neutrality in spectrum management and has, for example, allowed use of LTE technology in the GSM 1800 range.

 

Full Article

Over the past two decades we have seen amazingly fast growth in wireless communications. Progress has been primarily based on the development of wireless technologies and a variety of intelligent terminal devices. The Internet has also come to provide a platform for services and applications utilising these technologies and smart devices. New services appealing to users and generating eager demand in the markets have naturally played an essential part in increasing wireless communications. The development of information and communications technology has sometimes been compared to that of the combustion engine. The invention of the combustion engine was quickly followed by the development of automobiles. Nevertheless, it took half a century before the necessary infrastructure, such as the road network, was in place for wide exploitation of the economic potential of the innovation. This surely applies to communications technology too. We already have a foretaste of how new technologies can ease our work and daily lives. I believe that future will bring us many applications and services that we cannot even dream of today. Having an effective and unbiased communications policy has proved to be a key means of promoting the successful development of wireless communications. It is particularly important to ensure adequate access to spectrum. Our aim in Finland has been to allocate new frequency ranges to mobile communications as a priority, because these have the highest demand for spectrum. The most recent notable decision with regard to spectrum allocation concerned the 800 band released from analogue television broadcasting. In June 2008 the Finnish Government decided to allocate this frequency range to mobile communications. The ‘digital dividend’ is a topical issue in many countries, and we hope that a similar solution will be adopted as widely as possible throughout Europe. In June 2009 Finland arranged a Baltic Sea Summit on the Digital Dividend with the aim of creating a consensus among nine Baltic Sea countries with regard to the use and possibilities of the 800 band. It is important to agree on terms for use of the digital dividend worldwide, as well as in regional and European cooperation. The next World Radio Conference, WRC 2012, will be an important milestone in this respect. Spectrum policy should also be used to ensure that there are enough frequencies for mobile communications in the future. Various alternatives should be considered with an open mind. A considerable number of frequencies that are very valuable for their technical properties are still reserved for television broadcasting. I believe that television programmes will gradually come to be delivered through new distribution channels, particularly through high-speed broadband networks. This will provide an opportunity to reassess the actual size of the digital dividend. As well as helping to optimise spectrum availability, spectrum policy can also influence the terms under which frequencies are used. Today’s rapid technological development calls for greater flexibility in spectrum management. Technological neutrality is an approach that aims at flexible use of frequencies. Finland has been a forerunner in this field: we were the first in the world to approve the use of the GSM 900 frequency range in third generation mobile communications, and since spring 2009 Finland has allowed use of LTE technology in the GSM 1800 range. These decisions have aroused international interest and many countries have followed our example. Thinking in terms of democracy in society, the greatest benefit that the development of wireless communications can provide is to ensure basic communication services for everyone. High-quality communications are of particular importance in sparsely populated countries like Finland, where long distances have to be covered. Finland’s ‘@450’ wireless network covers practically the entire country and can provide speeds of up to 2 Mbit/s. Recently, the construction of 3G networks has also been going ahead with gratifying speed. I think we will probably have three competing national UMTS networks in Finland already by 2013. Largely thanks to the wireless networks, we have been able to set a 1 Mbit/s broadband service as the basic service to which everyone in Finland must have access at a reasonable price in their permanent place of residence. This will make it possible for electronic services to be available to every Finn from July 2010. In the longer term, of course, a speed of 1 Mbit/s will not be enough. The aim of our national action plan - Making Broadband Available to Everyone - is to have 100 Mbit/s high-speed networks covering the entire country by 2015. This calls for close cooperation between private and public sectors. Nevertheless, we intend to achieve 95 per cent of the goal on commercial terms. With regard to the most sparsely populated areas, both private and public investments are needed. In Finland, public funding will be provided by the government, local municipalities and the EU. Both wireless and fibre solutions will certainly be used to achieve this objective too. Technological development calls for continuous efforts in research and product development. With regard to spectrum research it is essential that we should be able to allocate frequencies for use in research, testing and education, as well as for commercial utilisation. Finland has a long tradition of radio technology research, both in universities and in businesses. We want to make sure that we continue to offer a favourable environment for long-term research in the future. A sparsely populated country such as Finland is more suitable for frequency testing than many; more densely populated, countries, because fewer disturbances are caused to the activities of commercial telecom operators. In March 2009 the Finnish Government decided that local restrictions for reasons of research, testing and education can be imposed on all significant mobile communications frequencies. I hope that this decision will attract new research and product development activities to Finland. Wireless communications continues to make triumphant progress. The next great shake-up will probably occur with the coming of Cognitive Radio. As well as changing the use of frequencies, it is likely that Cognitive Radio will also bring changes to spectrum management. In a world of frequency-agile technologies and terminal devices, operating licences like those currently in use will not necessarily be needed anymore. Finland wants to be among the pioneers taking this leap into the unknown. We are aiming to start extensive testing of Cognitive Radio on our television frequencies as early as in 2010. Such spectrum policy decisions open up opportunities and enable growth. Developments in technologies and markets determine the actual shape the future will take.

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