In a major shift in operator preferences for LTE spectrum, three of Europe’s most influential carriers have joined together to encourage vendor support for LTE devices operating in the 1800MHz spectrum. Making their announcement at the LTE World Summit in Amsterdam, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and TeliaSonera earmarked the soon-to-be-re-farmed 1800MHz spectrum as their preferred choice for rolling out LTE networks.
The 1800MHz band was initially used for extending GSM (and later EDGE) capacity beyond its original 900MHz allocations, but a recent announcement from the European Commission mandated the re-farming of the band, calling on all operators to make room on the spectrum by the end of this year. The Commission also released guidelines for ensuring that UMTS, LTE and WiMAX can co-exist on 1800MHz, paving the way for LTE roaming.
According to Nokia Siemens Networks, licence allocation on this band tends to be less fragmented than, for example, 900MHz. Research undertaken by Informa indicates that there are currently 19 distinct frequency bands in which LTE has been commercially deployed, creating something of a headache for handset and chip manufacturers, not least because ongoing support for voice on 3G networks also has to be included.
European networks have, to date, focused on the 2.6GHz and 800MHz bands; Deutsche Telekom launched its commercial LTE services in the latter, digital dividend, band, while TeliaSonera looks for device support in the 800, 1800 and 2600MHz bands. Despite its ability to pick up the slack in the capacity department, many operators view the 2.6GHz band as inefficient and expensive, however. 1800MHz is generally well regarded in terms of both coverage and capacity for LTE.
If 2.1GHz is included, Europe will now be offering four designated or preferred spectrum bands for LTE.