Ofcom’s plans to auction the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum for the UK is great news, but it will not be the panacea for addressing the problems of data capacity faced by mobile operators, according to Stephen Rayment, chief technical officer at wireless networking specialists BelAir Networks.
‘The £22 billion raised from auctioning of the 3G licences was largely a speculative move as operators weren’t completely sure how the spectrum would be used,’ said Rayment. ‘It took nearly seven years and the launch of devices like the iPhone before demand for mobile data really started to take shape.
‘Now, the vast surges in data consumption are wreaking havoc across 3G networks, particularly in areas of high user concentration. In fact, mobile data traffic is already on track to exceed the capacity that will be available in forthcoming LTE and 4G networks. Consequently, buying new spectrum is no longer a speculative move for mobile operators, it’s an absolute necessity,’ argued Rayment.
In Rayment’s view the real elephant in the room is how operators ensure their networks can continue to cope with the increasing appetite for mobile data. ‘Whilst the upgrade path from 2G to 3G consisted primarily of swapping base stations from their tower and rooftop mounting locations, this macro-cellular approach will barely touch the sides when it comes to data capacity,’ he said.
Rayment concluded: ‘Operators know that smaller cells are the only sure fire way of deploying future networks capable of delivering high quality mobile broadband. The problem then is finding ways to mount, power and backhaul the additional base stations required for small cell architectures.’