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Resolving the 3G Spectrum Challenge in Asia-Pacific

Written by  R. N. Agarwal
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R. N. AgarwalIssue:Asia-Pacific II 2001
Article no.:14
Topic:Resolving the 3G Spectrum Challenge in Asia-Pacific
Author:R. N. Agarwal
Title:Wireless Adviser
Organisation:Ministry of Communications
PDF size:24KB

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Article abstract

The radio frequency spectrum is a limited resource; it must be shared by a variety of services. The challenge of allocating spectrum for 3G applications has been resolved using a flexible approach. Several, alternative, frequency bands were designated for 3G applications. Each country was given the option of choosing-based on market demand, existing frequency usage and other local considerations-the bands it would use to implement IMT-2000 services.

 

Full Article

The history of 3rd Generation mobile telecommunication services (3G) dates back to the World Administrative Radio Conference in 1992 (WARC-1992) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), held in Malaga-Torremolinos, Spain. It was there that important issues pertaining to frequency bands for mobile telecommunication systems in the name of Future Public Land Mobile Telecommunication Systems (FPLMTS) surfaced. After considerable debate, a footnote provision was introduced in the Radio Regulations (RR)Table of Frequency Allocations designating the frequency bands 1885-2025 MHz and 2110-2200 MHz for use, on a worldwide basis, by administrations wishing to implement FPLMTS. Such use did not preclude use of these bands by other services to which they were allocated. The key elements of this provision was not the frequency allocation itself, but the intent. Previous efforts to allocate frequencies, were based on allocations of a band for a particular type of radiocommunication service-Mobile Service, for example-not for a class of applications such as FPLMTS. The intent was to permit this band to be used, non-exclusively, by administrations that wished to implement FPLMTS. The band in question would continue to be available for other purposes as well. The global telecommunications scenario began to change rapidly at about that time and, in response, several developments took place to cope with this fast changing environment. The structure of the International Telecommunication Union witnessed a sea change as a result of decisions at the Additional Pleni-potentiary Conference, Geneva, 1992. The decisions were intended to make the ITU more effective, efficient and responsive to the fast changing telecommunication scenario. One of the ITU's major decisions was to convene World Radiocommunication Conferences every alternate year to consider the full range of radiocommunication services. These meetings replaced the World Administrative Radio Conferences, which had been limited to single, specific services. As a result of this decision, issues relating to all types of services could be considered on an almost continuous basis. Issues could be resolved at a quicker pace and technological development accelerated. During the same period, privatisation of the telecommunication sector was a common phenomenon in both developed and developing countries. Privatisation, globalisation and the introduction of competition dominated and re-shaped much of the sector. Mobility and information access became driving forces in the market. The need for widespread access to information, the benefits of mobility and the advantages of the newly available, rapidly upgrade-able, technologies became apparent. Recognising that telecommunications was becoming one of the most important tools for socioeconomic development, many countries of the world, including those of the Asia-Pacific region, worked to introduce First and Second Generation mobile telecommunication systems on a large scale. It is within this context that efforts to meet the needs of society began to accelerate. Technological advances created the means for information to be accessed and entertainment transmitted using the public telecommunications system. The growth of these services, in turn, fuelled demand for access with emphasis on mobility, faster data rates and broader bandwidth. Third generation (3G) mobile systems were developed to meet these needs. The ITU sponsored International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000) standard provides the framework global mobile access in this century. The IMT-2000 is an advanced mobile communication concept intended to provide telecommunication services on a worldwide scale regardless of location, network or terminal used. The key features include, among others: · support for multi-media applications · support for a wide range of services such as video teleconferencing and high speed Internet, · use of small terminals with worldwide roaming capability, · high degree of commonality of design, · high quality of service and · compatibility of services with fixed networks. The network is required to support variety of services such as high-resolution video and multi-media services in addition to voice, fax and conventional data services. To assess and meet the spectrum requirements for IMT-2000, extensive studies were carried out in the Asia-Pacific and other regions of the world and within the ITU. It was recognised that since the World Administrative Radio Conference in 92, the market for personal communication had expanded significantly. It had also become apparent that data applications, in particular multi-media applications, would play a major role in mobile communication services in the years leading to 2010. After considerable study, it was found that an additional 160 MHz of spectrum would be needed for the terrestrial component of IMT-2000 by the year 2010. Several possible candidate frequencies, in bands up to 3 GHz, were considered for this purpose. No unused bands, though, with the additional frequencies to support 3G services could be identified. In one country or another, all the candidate bands were being extensively used for a wide variety of services and applications. The 470-806 MHz candidate band was used extensively for television services and other applications. Likewise, the 806-960 MHz frequency band was widely used for applications such as Tetra, railway-GSM, television broad-casting, ancillary broadcasting services, radiolocation, tactical radio relay, rural fixed wireless access and mobile applications. Analysis showed that each of the other candidate bands were also, similarly, being extensively exploited. The radio frequency spectrum is a highly limited natural resource. It is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, arbitrarily up to about 3000 GHz, beyond which are infra-red rays, visible light, ultra-violet, x-rays, gamma-rays and cosmic rays. Radio waves are governed by laws of physics, and travel in straight lines at the speed of light. Radio waves cannot be confined to national boundaries or specific areas and are susceptible to harmful interference. Propagation of radio waves has different characteristics in different frequency bands and is influenced by different phenomenon, including among others, cosmic noise, man-made radio noise, geographical terrain and climatic conditions. Although the spectrum may appear to be an abundant resource, in practice, it is extremely limited due to the limitations of existing technology, propagational and operational constraints and the requirements of the wide variety of uses to which it is put. It is, therefore, essential that the radio frequency spectrum be used efficiently, economically, rationally and optimally. "The greater the number of stations, the greater the pollution of electromagnetic environment." The intrinsic characteristics of radio waves-the potential for harmful interference, the need for universality and for the sharing the radio frequencies-makes the existence of effective radio regulatory mechanisms mandatory. Mutual interference among wireless stations imposes limits on radio-communications. An evaluation of the interference threat to and from a new station is an integral part of radio regulatory mechanism requiring an in-depth analysis of technical characteristics of the station and its environment. The greater the number of stations, the greater the pollution of electromagnetic environment. The greater the types of services and applications, the greater are the complexities of co-existence. The greater the number of diverse technologies, the greater the problems of regulation. The situation is somewhat analogous to road traffic. The greater the number and variety of vehicles on the road, the greater the chaos and the need for, and the complexity of, regulation. The regulation of radio is based upon an entirely different mechanism than regulation of other activities. In this case, the term 'regulation' is quite different to what is understood in general parlance. The scientific features and physical laws of nature predominantly govern it. Spectrum can neither be created, nor destroyed. The regulatory process is concerned, here, with the efficient use of spectrum. Usage can effectively be multiplied by regulations that take advantage of the latest technological means and that take into account the natural phenomena which determine the capabilities and constraints of radio transmission. "The concept of radio spectrum sharing involves considerations of system design and configuration, signal characteristics and service quality." Practically all frequency bands are shared amongst different types of radiocommunication services and by a variety of applications. The concept of radio spectrum sharing involves considerations of system design and configuration, signal characteristics and service quality. The basic tools of radio frequency sharing require application of the principles of time-sharing, technical sharing and geographical sharing. In this context, the issue of how to meet the spectrum requirements for 3G applications was extensively studied and debated by the APT Conference Preparatory Group (APG) for the World Radiocommunication Conference-2000 (WRC-2000). It was recognised that the Asia-Pacific region was full of diversities. There were diversities in terms of technology, industry, infrastructure, development and geographical terrain. Obviously, requirements, perspectives and necessities of various countries in the region were quite diverse as well. While there was a paramount need to find appropriate spectrum for 3G technologies, the protection of the spectrum for existing technologies and networks was equally important if the needs and aspirations of all countries in the region were to be appropriately and equitably met. It was apparent that it was not feasible to identify a single harmonised frequency band for 3G applications on both a regional and global basis. A concept grounded in flexibility was, therefore, developed to meet the challenges of finding spectrum for 3G applications. Based on this concept, the frequency bands 806-960 MHz, 1710-1885 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz were all identified for 3G use. Each country was given the flexibility, the option, to use these bands-or portions of these bands-according to their own, particular, current and future needs for services and applications. Based on the detailed proposal, in line with this approach, from the countries of Asia-Pacific region as well as from certain countries of other parts of the world, the issue of spectrum for 3G applications was finally resolved, after considerable debate, at the WRC-2000. As a result of the WRC-2000, provisions have been made in the Radio Regulations (an international treaty) to the effect that portions of the frequency bands 806- 960 MHz, 1710-1885 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz are identified for use by administrations wishing to implement IMT-2000. This, however, does not preclude use of these bands for other services and applications to which these bands are allocated, nor does this establish any priority. An additional resolution was also adopted to allow national regulators to designate appropriate portions of these bands for the implementation of IMT-2000 based upon market demand and other local considerations. The development of multi-band handsets was encouraged in order to facilitate global roaming. In essence solution to the challenge of finding spectrum for 3G applications is flexibility. The multi-band approach to the development and implementation of 3G services, which provides for choices based upon local needs, market demand, appropriate timeframe, technological neutrality and national requirements for other types of services and applications, is the key to the solution. Mr. RN Agarwal presently holds the position of Wireless Adviser to the Government of India and is the Head of the Spectrum Management and Radio Regulatory Department. He is an elected Member of the Radio Regulations Board (RRB) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and was its Chairman during the year 2000. He is also Chairman of the APT Conference Preparatory Group for ITU's World Radiocommunication Conferences. He has participated in many international conferences and meetings and has been chairman of various committees of the International Telecommunication Union and the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT). He has served as Senior Expert in Spectrum Management to the International Telecommunication Union. Mr. Agarwal has been awarded a Diploma of Recognition by the ITU for his outstanding contribution to the ITU Radiocommunication Sector. After graduating in telecommunication engineering from University of Roorkee, Mr. Agarwal joined the Ministry of Communications, Government of India, New Delhi in 1963.

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