The ‘battle’ for spectrum

by Staff Reporter | August 12th, 2012

David Hartshorn, secretary general of GVF

Spectrum has never been this valuable and as LTE takes the place of WiMAX in the ongoing battle for bandwidth, the satellite industry is gearing for the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015, to protect the spectrum bands it uses, says David Hartshorn, secretary general of GVF.

The satellite industry is not anti wireless. We are anti interference. The wireless industry is one of the biggest customer groups for the satellite industry

“The World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC) will be a battlefield,” predicts David Hartshorn, secretary general of the Global VSAT Forum (GVF), in conversation with SatellitePro ME, as satellite operators prepare for the challenge of Long Term Evolution (LTE). But it seems there will be no need for the proverbial circling of the wagons when something or anything comes between a viewer and his soccer game, as it did in Bolivia, some years ago.

The wireless operators were asked to vacate the frequencies used by the satellite industry for television broadcast. The undoubted pressures of missed soccer moments  notwithstanding, David Hartshorn and his team at GVF, are preparing for a conference that is slated to be fierce in terms of negotiating for valuable spectrum. At the outset, Hartshorn clarifies the stance of the satellite industry.

He states: “The satellite industry is not anti wireless. We are anti interference. The wireless industry is one of the biggest customer groups for the satellite industry. In an ideal world, the wireless industry will stay away from the satellite bandwidths as the satellite industry, in turn, supports the wireless industry.”

Hartshorn admits that it is early days yet. “We are at the beginning of the cycle. We are where WiMAX was in 2006-2007. While the roll-out of LTE services in the developed countries has been good, it is an open question as to how the service will fare in other parts of the world.”

We are at the beginning of the cycle. We are where WiMAX was in 2006-2007. While the roll-out of LTE services in the developed countries has been good, it is an open question as to how the service will fare in other parts of the world

Speaking at an industry event in Singapore, earlier this year, Hartshorn said that WRC-12 has set the stage for a new spectrum fight via Agenda Item 8.2, which includes a resolution to find additional International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum, as currently designated frequency bands for 4G will be filled before 2020.

Agenda Item 8.2 mentions “higher bands” as a possible source of extra IMT spectrum, but doesn’t specify which bands would be under  consideration. But Hartshorn insists that both the Ku- and Ka-band are already being targeted for mobile broadband usage.

“We have already seen open proceedings by national administrations looking at wireless as a shared service with Ku-band and also with Ka-band,” he said.

“That’s how it starts – they look for points of weakness, test it at the national level, then build it out at a global level. If they sense vulnerability, we’re going to have a fight on our hands for that spectrum.”

Hartshorn said the satellite industry is gearing up for WRC-15 to protect the spectrum bands it uses already.

Advent into consumer broadband heightens stakes The fight for spectrum is taking on added intensity with the advances the satellite industry has made in recent years.

Hartshorn elaborates, “The satellite industry is doing well in terms of technical advances, year on year. In the past couple of years, there has been a massive breakthrough for the satellite industry vis-à-vis consumer broadband. Right now, we have a million subscribers across Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific.

The satellite industry has broken through a new level of service provision and the stakes in the spectrum battle have grown hugely

“The satellite industry has broken through a new level of service provision and the stakes in the spectrum battle have grown hugely. Just recently, I was in Johannesburg and I communications services. I sensed that the distributors were really excited about the service starting on August 1 2012. For the first time outside South Africa, you will have broadband connectivity. We are seeing commercial dynamism at a level never seen before.”

Solutions coexist in mature markets

There is a tendency, Hartshorn believes, to think that when nothing else is available, satellite is the solution. “This notion is not borne out by facts on the ground. The USA has more fibre optics and wireless than any country in the world. And guess who is the single largest consumer of satellite services? The USA.”

The reason for the thriving presence of the satellite industry in a mature market, such as the USA, should be an eye-opener for other countries, especially the developing countries, says Hartshorn.

“Each communication solution is like a different tool in the tool box. They operate on varying degrees of efficiency in a given situation and offer different returns on investment. You cannot take a blinkered view on the solutions a country or region requires because you need satellites for point to multipoint and fibre for point to point, for instance. When the dust settles, governments in emerging markets will realise that it is not an either/or situation.”

Each communication solution is like a different tool in the tool box. When the dust settles, governments in emerging markets will realise that it is not an either/or situation

For now, however, the battle between new and incumbent services will persist.

Over promising and under delivering

Given the limited amount of spectrum and the increasing number of services that need spectrum, there is a constant flow of new incoming services and Hartshorn believes that that there is tendency for any new service to over promise.

“You hype the service so that you can justify asking for someone else’s spectrum and you will find throughout the communication industry – every new service is touted as the best thing since sliced bread.

The marketing department from within that industry kicks into overdrive and sends out all kinds of messages as to how the service will change the world.

“The classic example of over promising is the wireless local loop industry, a decade ago. They promised everything, got the spectrum and fell flat. While WiMAX has done good things in major cities in some developing countries, governments have discovered that other than interference issues, the technology has serious limitations.

While WiMAX has done good things in major cities in some developing countries, governments have discovered that other than interference issues, the technology has serious limitations

“In 2007, WiMAX was being promoted as this great new service which was going to provide universal access to broadband. The reality is that the business plan for WiMAX is such that it is profitable in high  density populations. As soon as the density gets thinner, the financial metrics become unattractive. So the promise of providing universal services through WiMAX has not been fulfilled.

“Another important trend since 2007 is that fibre optics has been available increasingly in the major cities across the developing world and this has eroded the market share for WiMAX.

“And the third problem for WiMAX is the emergence of LTE as the new darling of the wireless industry. It has overwhelming support among the major players and companies are  postponing their current investments for the better technology. So you have all these factors working against WiMAX.”

Similar questions are being raised about LTE. Speaking with the benefit of hindsight and studies on the ground, Hartshorn says, “We already have information that LTE will, in fact, interfere with satellite services if they share bandwidth or work in adjacent bandwidths. So the satellite industry is deeply concerned about LTE. We will be working with everyone concerned to encourage LTE to pursue frequencies that are lower down in the spectrum range where the physics of the band are more useful for the delivery of LTE services.

“Our industry worldwide is coordinating right now to make this case so governments around the world do not make the same mistakes they made with WiMAX.”

 

David Hartshorn on the WiMAX saga

“During the world radio conference in 2007, what we saw was the first major struggle that occurred between the global wireless industry and the satellite industry. At that time, it was the most controversial agenda item at the meeting – Agenda item 1.4. The wireless industry that was referred to as the IMT sector and this includes services such as WiMAX, attempted to have extended C-band that is a frequency rate that is around 3.5, 3.6 GHz.

“They attempted to have a global identification of the band. What that means is that they tried to have extended C-band identified for use for the wireless industry worldwide. Now that band is used worldwide by the satellite industry for a range of different types of services and so for a global identification to occur that would mean forced displacement of the satellite industry.

“During the 2007 conference, there was a negotiated compromise. The wireless industry was not granted a global identification for extended C-band, but individual nations who wanted to reserve the right to potentially permit WiMAX and other IMT type deployment at extended C-band, were allowed to do so if the name of their country was included in a footnote in the final act of the World Radio Conference and they would be referred to as an opt-in country. There were more than 60 countries that had their names included.

The outcome: Severe case of interference

“Interference was severe for incumbent satellite services further up the spectrum range using standard C-band. A pattern started to unfold. Invariably when the interference began to be seen, the broadcasters and cable operators approached their government and with the use of spectrum analysers and other tools, they identified the WiMAX operators as the culprit.

“Those affected included VSAT operators who provided services for banks, governments, oil and gas, mining and humanitarian organisations, among others.

“Standard practice in the regulatory world is that if there is an incumbent service operating in the band and it was licenced by the government, and a new service creates interference, it is the responsibility for the new service to take whatever steps necessary to prevent the interference. And if they are unsuccessful, the service provider should exit the band.”

The range of solutions

Outlining the range of solutions proposed at the time, Hartshorn says, “Typically, the affected parties started to look at filters to combat the interference? However, in some countries, take for example Thailand, they have two million earth stations. Now who is going to pay to send an installer, and who will pay for two million filters?

“Another solution spoken about was enforcing exclusion zones around the earth stations. But there is a problem here too. Extensive testing has shown that it would take several  kilometres of exclusion zone around each earth station – so if you put an exclusion zone around two million earth stations in Thailand – you are left with no market for WiMAX at all.

“While none of this represents a complete solution, the option to solve the problem is for the WiMAX operator to exit the extended C-band and begin offering services in a lower spectrum band. And that pattern has begun to unfold since 2007 in various regions around the world. Governments in Malaysia and Indonesia have requested the WiMAX operators to exit the band despite the fact that they were licenced, because they could not solve the problem of interference.”

The crises in Dacca

Gregg Daffner, chairman of CASBAA’s Wireless Action Group and David Hartshorn, secretary general of GVF joined the Cable Operators Association of Bangladesh (COAB), to alert the government of a crises that could potentially close down hundreds of TV channels across the country as a result of the WiMAX operators sharing the 3.5 GHz bandwidth with television services.

“Right now Bangladesh is learning this hard lesson. Along with 80 representatives of the Bangladesh cable and broadcasting industry, we told the government that they were not alone. The interfering WiMAX services can use other, less crowded frequencies. In other markets, WiMAX operators have successfully migrated from the 3.5GHz band, so we know we can resolve the crisis in Bangladesh.”

“Not all countries are making this mistake. Myanmar has decided not to have WiMAX in extended C-band. Another example is Vietnam. They have launched their own national satellite programme and that satellite has C-band on it. And they want to make sure that the satellite services are protected and used optimally.”

“We have already seen open proceedings by national administrations looking at wireless as a shared service with Ku-band and also with Ka-band,” he said.

“That’s how it starts – they look for points of weakness, test it at the national level, then build it out at a global level. If they sense vulnerability, we’re going to have a fight on our hands for that spectrum.”

Hartshorn said the satellite industry is gearing up for WRC-15 to protect the spectrum bands it uses already.

 

Copyright 2017 SatellitePro Middle East. All rights reserved. Product of CPI Media Group. For more information e-mail us at webmaster@cpimediagroup.com.
Privacy Policy