In a move that will be seen as a boost for Telkom’s mobile operator, 8ta, the US Federal Communications Commission has given AT&T permission to purchase spectrum in a key frequency band in which the telecommunications giant wants to deploy next-generation wireless broadband.
AT&T has been granted access to a number of bands, one of which involves spectrum around 2,3GHz. This is the same spectrum band 8ta intends using to roll out a national broadband network using fourth-generation long-term evolution (4G/LTE) technology.
South Africa’s fourth and smallest mobile operator has access to a huge, 60MHz chunk of spectrum in the 2,3GHz band, potentially giving it a significant competitive advantage over rivals MTN, Vodacom and Cell C, which have been forced to “refarm” some of their limited existing spectrum in order to build their 4G/LTE networks.
The 2,3GHz band is also favoured by big operators in India and China, two countries that between them have a population of more than 2,5bn people. The move by AT&T to build 4G/LTE using the band reinforces 8ta’s strategy to do the same, says senior management executive Amith Maharaj.
That AT&T will use the band increases the likelihood that big handset manufacturers will support the technology, meaning more devices available to consumers who choose 8ta’s network.
“I’m a firm believer that the key to LTE is spectrum and the entity with the most spectrum will win the marathon,” says Maharaj, who told TechCentral in an interview in October that the flavour of 4G/LTE used at 2,3GHz — a system known as TD-LTE — is “more efficient for broadband, which is what LTE is meant for”.
Telkom’s rivals are all building 4G networks using the FD-LTE alternative favoured by operators in Europe and North America.
Maharaj said that TD-LTE is the better technology for broadband because, unlike FD-LTE, the uplink and downlink components of the spectrum don’t have to be the same size. “If we have 20MHz, we can do 15MHz down and 5MHz up. That’s more in line with how the Internet is used and makes more efficient use of spectrum.”
8ta, which is currently running a pilot 4G/LTE network, plans to launch commercial services in 2013. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media