Industry association the WiMAX Forum has welcomed a recent decision by the European Commission to allow regulators to be flexible in the amount of FDD (paired) and TDD (unpaired) spectrum they award in the 2.6GHz frequency band.

The EC decision is a significant one for the WiMAX community as it is a move away from the more rigid 2.6GHz spectrum guidelines set out by CEPT/ECC in 2005.

These guidelines stipulated that two 70MHz chunks of spectrum should be allocated to FDD (one for the uplink and one for the downlink), but only 50MHz to be awarded for unpaired TDD spectrum.

The 2.6GHz band encompasses spectrum in the 2.5GHz to 2.69GHz frequencies.

“The 2.6GHz decision is the result of many months of work by the European Commission, supported by the CEPT Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) and its project teams,” said Ron Resnick, president of the WiMAX Forum. “The WiMAX Forum Regulatory Working Group – and its European Regional Task Group in particular – contributed extensively to support and encourage this work via participation in the relevant ECC activities. The WiMAX Forum is excited to see additional progress being made in Europe to further empower the individual governing bodies to make decisions on telecommunications service availability for its citizens.”

Given that mobile WiMAX profiles, to date, are focused on TDD, the 2005 guidelines set out by CEPT/ECC in its ‘Decision (05) 05′ appeared to favour FDD technologies, such as LTE, over WiMAX by giving them more spectrum.

More weight is added to this interpretation when it is considered that the 2005 guidelines stipulated that the guardband between FDD and TDD technologies (the 50MHz TDD chunk sits between the two 70MHz FDD allocations) should be taken out of the TDD allocation. The guardband is necessary to avoid the risk of interference between the two different duplex technologies.

By not taking a pre-determined position on how much spectrum should be allocated to either FDD or TDD, the EC believes it can lay claim to being technology neutral. Under this system, the market decides which way to go, TDD or FDD, from a level playing field. 

“The 2.6GHz decision is fully in line with the WiMAX Forum’s policy on spectrum flexibility, and we commend the European Commission and the ECC on the strong leadership they have shown in moving forward the spectrum management paradigm in Europe,’ added Tim Hewitt, director of regulatory and spectrum policy for the WiMAX Forum. “The acceptance of the 2.6GHz decision provides a great deal of regulatory clarity for administrations. The EU administrations can now justifiably, and with the knowledge they are backed by the full weight of European Union policy, question the now inappropriate ECC Decision (05)05, which is holding back the development of a fully competitive European mobile broadband market.’

Not everyone is happy with this way of slicing and dicing the 2.6GHz spectrum. Ericsson, which backs LTE and has no WiMAX portfolio of its own, argues that the prospect of TDD and FDD technologies being peppered throughout the 2.6GHz band will lead to greater interference and a poorer customer experience. This in turn, argues the Swedish kit supplier, will devalue the 2.6GHz spectrum that is currently up for grabs in EU member states.