Using spectrum efficiently

Spectrum aggregation and spectrum harmonisation brings challenges to the MEA region
Aggregation, CommsMEA, ITU, Magazine, MEA, Region, Region 1, Spectrum, Columns

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Connectivity and mobility are two key factors that enable operators worldwide to develop their services. Telcos need governments’ help to achieve these two characteristics in the countries which they are operating to expand their businesses and offer consumers the service they demand.

Spectrum harmonisation is a basic necessity to promote connectivity and mobility among customers, but the MEA region is still facing some challenges to achieve it. This is an aspect in which operators and governments need to work together to enable these two factors.

The consensus in the mobile operator community is support for the proposed 2x30MHz band plan that consists of 703–733MHz (uplink) paired with 758–788MHz (downlink) as the preferred 700MHz band plan for Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

ITU gathers Europe, Middle East and Africa in the same region (Region 1) regarding the mobile spectrum but not all countries are following established harmonised technical rules on the allocation of 790–862MHz band, when the deadline set by ITU is 2015. As countries are not following the technical recommendations, they might not meet the deadline imposed by the ITU.

Another challenge that operators are facing is how to efficiently use their existing spectrum when trying to improve their existing network from 2G to 3G and from 3G to 4G. The GSMA supports a licensing approach that allows any compatible, non-interfering technology to be used in mobile frequency bands.

Governments should amend technology-specific licences to allow new technologies to be deployed, enabling operators to serve more subscribers and provide subscribers with more innovative services per unit of bandwidth.

The GSMA also support this vision as Peter Lyons, director of Public Policy at GSMA, comments in our Spectrum Aggregation feature. CommsMEA asked different key players to see what the region is doing and what are their next plans to improve the current situation.

Harmonisation on the LTE spectrum is still a challenge in the region. Some operators are adopting this new network but they cannot guarantee a roaming service with the same quality, as other countries will use a different spectrum to allocate LTE.

Network performance is one of the main concerns of the customers, and therefore, a main concern for operators. To fight these problems, operators must consider what Value Added Services (VAS) they should offer to customers to maintain their loyalty and attract potential clients.

Ibrahim Rafiah, head of Ericsson in the Middle East, agrees with this vision as she comments in our interview. Vendors are improving their customer management services to offer a better VAS.

Content is becoming one of the options that operators are adopting in the region, as some players in the telecommunications market state.

However, money is also a key factor for customer and operators cannot assume that customers are always willing to pay more and more for a better service. Moreover, some countries in the MEA region have an extended low income population that cannot face their high prices.

ITU wants to promote the internet as a basic need, so the access price has to be affordable for everyone. Operators are looking for the “winning packages” and are segmenting their customers to get revenues from it.

Ooredoo has just landed in Myanmar to offer Internet to expand its portfolio and bring internet services to the country. “We are working hard to deliver our services to as many people as possible and ensure ready availability of SIMs,” said Ross Cormack, CEO at Ooredoo Myanmar.

Dr. Nasser Marafih, CEO of the Ooredoo Group, comments this launch in our interview (page 34) and explains the company’s strategy to improve their growth.

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