AWS, 2.6 GHz to be most common LTE frequencies in Latin America

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RIO DE JANEIRO – There will not be a unique frequency band for deploying LTE in Latin America. However, planned auctions and current LTE trials suggest that AWS (1700/2100 MHz) and 2.6 GHZ are likely to be the most common bands as Brazil, Chile, and Colombia have already focused on LTE implementation in these frequencies.

“The 2.6 GHz, 700 MHz combination is ideal for coverage, capacity, convergence, device availability and roaming,” said Balazs Bertenyi, TSG AS chairman, 3GPP.

In Brazil, Anatel will also bid on 14 megahertz in the 450 MHz band to focus on rural coverage. However, standards body 3GPP has neither plans or proposals for LTE in the 450 MHz frequency bands.

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AT&T and Open Mobile have already launched LTE in 700 MHz in the Caribbean in synergy with the U.S. market. However, across many other Latin American countries the 700 Mhz frequency band faces challenges due to its use for television signal broadcasting.

“They still need to re-farm this spectrum band,” noted Cintia Garza, senior analyst at Maravedis. The reallocating of bandwidth is a key factor for LTE deployment in the low bands and might not happen quickly.

In some countries, such as Mexico and Argentina, the 2.6 GHz band is not ready yet for LTE, since it is currently allocated for MMDS services. “Regulators are working to use 2.6 GHz for 4G services, but it will take a long time,” noted Garza. Mexico has already considered re-farming 2.6 GHz. The question is how long it will take.

Mexico also needs to re-farm 700 MHz, which is currently used for analogic television. “The government has actually proposed to anticipate the reallocation from 2020 to 2015,” added Erasmo Rojas, 4G Americas’ director of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Analysts who participated in a regulators’ panel discussion during this week’s Informa’s LTE Latin America event agreed 2012 will be a very important year for LTE deployment in Latin America because countries will hold key spectrum auctions. Some carriers have already done trials with commercial launches of Colombia’s UNE EPM (in 2.6 GHz), Brazil’s Sky (using 2.6 GHz), and Uruguay’s Antel (in AWS).

Related to these technologies is the 3GPP pointed LTE-advanced (Rel-10 onwards), which is the key enabler for addressing high mobile data traffic demand. LTE-(A) will be deployed as an evolution of LTE and, on new band, will be backward compatible with LTE for a smooth and flexible system migration from Rel-8 LTE.

Device prices
Carriers are also concerned about terminal prices. Throughout Latin America, mobile prepaid services represent about 80% of the total market and this segment is very sensitive to price. Device cost could be a barrier for LTE, as it was to 3G. However, 4G Americas’ Rojas noted that once Brazil, which is the major Latin America’s market, deploys LTE in 2.6 GHz, vendors might not want to be a part of it.

“They will work to increase the numbers of LTE devices in the 2.6 GHz band, due to the market size,” Garza told RCR Wireless News. “Scale will grow gradually, driven by Brazilian mobile subscribers.”

Latin America expected auctions in 2012-2013

Brazil – 189 megahertz spectrum in total

  • New spectrum in 2.6 GHz
    • 140 megahertz in 4 FDD sub-bands
    • 35 megahertz in 1 TDD sub-band
  • New spectrum in 450 MHz
    • 14 megahertz in 2×7 sub-bands

Chile – 120 megahertz spectrum total in 2.6 GHz

  • 3x(20+20 megahertz)

Colombia – 225 megahertz spectrum

  • Old spectrum: 5 megahertz in 1.9 GHz
  • New spectrum:
    • 130 megahertz in 2.6 G50 MHz
    • 90 megahertz in AWS (1.7/2.1 GHz)

Uruguay – 130 megahertz spectrum total

  • In 900 (10), 1.9 (30) and 1.7/2.1 GHz bands

Mexico – 30 megahertz spectrum total

  • Old spectrum: 30 megahertz left on 1.7/2.1 GHz (AWS) bands

Argentina – 102.5 megahertz spectrum total

  • New spectrum: 90 megahertz in 1.7/2.1 GHz (AWS)
  • Old spectrum: 850 MHz/1.9 GHz in 3 regions

Peru – 80 megahertz spectrum total

  • New spectrum in 1.7/2.1 GHz (AWS): 80 megahertz in 2x(20+20) sub-bands
  • Old spectrum: 900 MHz, 10.15-10.30 GHz and 10.50-10.65 GHz

Source: 4G Americas

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