I have not heard a lot of chatter on how the various 900MHz spectrum re-farming proposals impact the femtocell business case. The thought crossed my mind when I was reading the update to the UMTS900 Global Status Information Paper published by the GSA, the Global mobile Suppliers Association. This paper reports on network deployments, launches, trials, regulatory developments and devices availability.
GSA recently published an operator case study on Elisa, Finland showing significant cost and coverage benefits of deploying 3G services with UMTS900. Elisa confirmed that 3G coverage with UMTS900 can save 50 – 70% of mobile network costs versus UMTS2100, for CapEx and OpEx. Elisa also indicated indoor coverage as another key benefit of UMTS900.
Most femtocell business cases harp on the poor radio propagation characteristics at 2.1GHz – 2.5GHz frequencies – typically used for W-CDMA and HSPA in Europe. Has anyone done a femtocell business case analysis when 3G services are offered at 850-900MHz frequencies instead? I am not aware of any – would be great of any one can please point me to any available study.
Two big issues that have been holding up 900MHz spectrum re-farming has been a lack of regulatory clarity as well as device choice. The former is slowly being addressed in several countries – UMTS900 is now allowed in Australia, Estonia, Finland, France, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Thailand, while it is being actively considered in Germany, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, Phillipines and the UK.
The availability of UMTS900 compatible devices (supporting WCDMA-HSPA) is also improving – 45 UMTS900 devices are now launched in the market. These include various USB modems, PC Cards as well as smartphones such as the N96 and the new SonyEricsson Xperia X1.