The latest Ericsson Mobility Report shows that every second, 20 new mobile broadband subscriptions are activated globally. The report also predicts that mobile data traffic will grow more than 8 times by 2021 in Latina America, due to increased smartphone subscriptions, with users tending to use up to 6 GB of data per month. This huge mobile traffic growth can only be possible with higher amounts of spectrum, so that people can benefit from mobile services and technological evolutions such as 5G and Internet of Things (IoT).

Today, in order to be able to provide a better experience to their subscribers, operators need a combination of spectrum bands in high frequencies to improve capacity, such as the extension of AWS and 2.5 GHz, as well as low frequencies to secure coverage, such as the 700 MHz band.

The aggregation of LTE carriers in different frequency bands is quickly gaining momentum as a new way to achieve higher data to significantly improve the consumer’s service experience, but, at the same time, is increasing the operators’ need of spectrum.

According to recent estimates from the International Communications Unit (UIT), the American continent will need a minimum of 1.340 MHz to support increasing demand of mobile data traffic. Some countries still have the opportunity to license the frequencies short-term, since they are not using the entire spectrum available in the region. However, currently the average of assigned spectrum to mobile operators and used commercially in the six main markets in Latin America is 360 MHz.

In our region, governments in the short-middle term could consider accelerating the assignment and release of spectrum for 3G and 4G services, in bands that have been already been identified for the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), such as, AWS-1 and AWS Extension (AWS-3), 700 MHz, 2.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz.

In the middle term, our region should consider releasing those frequencies identified in the recent Global Radio Communications Conference 2015 (CMR-15). The Conference was organized by the International Communications Unit (UIT), and took place in November, with the participation of representatives from the 158 member countries.

In this conference, new spectrum bands were identified for our region, which will be useful to expand the mobile 3G and 4G networks. In addition, it was agreed to study some spectrum bands that will be candidates to introduce future 5G services. This will enable the evolution to the Networked Society with emerging applications in areas such as transport, energy, public security, e-commerce among others.

Some of the CMR-15 decisions that will impact the development of our industry include the identification of the next new band frequencies:

  • The band C (3.4-3.6 GHz) was identified for the International Mobile Telecommunications, in all regions of the world. This will make it possible to satisfy the capacity needs mainly in urban areas. Additionally, some countries in America also identified the 3.3-3.4 GHz band for the IMT, and others, the band 3.6-3.7 GHz.
  • The new band L (1427-1518 MHz) will provide a new spectrum that will be ideal to satisfy capacity and coverage needs.
  • Some countries in the Americas agreed to identify the 614-698 MHz, 470-608 MHz bands for the IMT, this will open opportunities to close the digital divide and take advantage of the convergence of services in the middle term of such countries.
  • Moreover, the majority of the countries in the region had attributed the 902-928 MHz band for mobile services; this will offer an excellent complement to coverage bands of less than 1 GHz.
  • Finally, some countries in America and Asia identified the 4800-4990 MHz band for the IMT, which can be enabled in a timely manner in future markets.

All these new bands are a real contribution to achieve the objective of expanding mobile broadband services, enabling regional data roaming, and achieve important scale economies in the chipset and devices ecosystem. Additionally, they will allow a massive adoption of services, especially contributing to closing the digital divide mainly in rural areas.

During the next CMR-19 meeting, the main objective will be to identify high frequency bands of above 24.25 to 86 GHz, to introduce future 5G mobile services, which without question will be key to supporting innovations and emerging applications in the Internet of Things.

The timely and efficient assignment of the spectrum will continue to be vital to drive the innovation of services and investments in the mobile industry for the benefit of consumers. This will lead to realizing Ericsson’s vision of a Networked Society where every person and every industry is empowered to reach its full potential.

Author: José Ayala, Director of Government and Industry Relations, Ericsson Latin America and Caribbean