COMMENT: Solving future data need in the region

MEA operators have requested more spectrum in the region to face coming data growth
Future, Growth, Industry, Licenses, Mobile, Operators, Regulators, Spectrum, Telecommunications, Telecoms, Columns, Data

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We all know that operators are concerned about how to cope with the coming data demand, as the Internet of Things will bring more connections and video is boosting the data generated by mobile devices.

Cisco estimates that smartphones will generate 37 times more data traffic than feature phones, while 4G smartphones will generate almost three times as much data traffic as 3G smartphones. The increasing use of mobile broadband-enabled smartphones will generate an explosion of data traffic, with volumes forecast to grow at a CAGR of 57% out to 2019, an almost tenfold increase.

Is the region aware of this need? According to the GSMA, just some countries are working to solve this future need. “The policy makers and regulators fundamentally underestimate how people are using mobile data in this region,” the GSMA explained.

“There is an awareness among regulators in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, for example. The problem with future spectrum is that now spectrum is allocated for other use, for instance satellite, or television broadcast, such as terrestrial broadcast. It is important for governments to realise that without a future spectrum agenda, operators will have very limited visibility and very limited incentive for making the kind of investment needed to face this future mobile data growth,” said the GSMA to CommsMEA.

The GSMA has requested to share a portion of the C-Band (3.4-4.2GHz), as it is one of the few bands where a harmonised portion could be made available for potential future mobile broadband use worldwide and which is large enough to support very high levels of data traffic and the fastest data rates, the organisation explains.

However, the satellite industry believes that this band is widely used to provide vital services, including air traffic control, government and enterprise communications, disaster relief, broadcasting and Internet access.

At the African Telecommunication Union (ATU) conference held in Nairobi at the end of July, African countries demonstrated their will to continue to use the satellite services provided by the C-band, as they unanimously decided that the band between 3.6 and 4.2 GHz will be allocated to satellite over the region.

“Opening the C-band to mobile operators would not herald the expansion of its use for new services. It would mean the end of services, with no guarantee that new mobile services would actually be deployed using this band. It’s a lose-lose scenario and exactly the opposite of the intended goals,” Michel de Rosen, CEO of Eutelsat, said at the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, the GSMA published a report developed by Frontier Economics, which highlights the economic benefits of reallocating C-band spectrum from satellite to mobile use in the Arab States. According to the report, using just the lower portion of the C-band (3.4-3.8GHz) for mobile could generate at least $7.6 billion for the Arab States economies. The economic benefits would be approximately 24 times higher than the $316 million cost of migrating satellite services to the higher portion of the C-band or to the Ka/Ku bands.

The satellite and mobile industry will have to discuss this matter during the World Radiocommunication Conference scheduled to take place in Geneva from 2 to 27 November 2015. The debate is still on and both sectors need to find a solution to cope with the coming data.

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