For this edition of Ask an Expert, Telrad spoke with wireless industry spectrum broker and consultant, Robert Finch, President of Select Spectrum. As an industry veteran in the communications business, we wanted to get his perspective on telecom trends that are impacting the industry as a whole.
Q: The 2.5 GHz band has changed dramatically in the past few years. Looking out for a few more years, what trends do you anticipate?
Right now, demand is growing faster than supply for spectrum. While the government is working hard to make more spectrum available for commercial services, reallocation, auctions and clearing takes time. From my experience, it’s often a very slow process involving attorneys, engineers, and government entities. For example, it took Sprint more than ten years and $4 billion to clear the 800 MHz SMR band.
Q: The 2.5 GHz spectrum range is unique in the sense it somewhat straddles both fixed and mobile applications. What are you seeing in terms of vertical market solutions in this band range?
In the 2.5 GHz band, I believe that we’ll be seeing an increase in the number of deployments:
- Sprint is continuing a very aggressive deployment of 2.5 GHz LTE in urban areas. These installations are dramatically expanding Sprint network capacity and will allow the company to offer solutions that other carriers cannot match.
- In rural areas, regional carriers are expanding their use of the 2.5 GHz band for mostly fixed services including mostly WiMAX today with strong interest in LTE going forward.
Mobile LTE networks can also support fixed services, but the cost of deploying networks to support mobile services have typically been higher than fixed network costs. There’s a possibility that operators in the band range will deploy hybrid mobile/fixed networks – but only time will tell. It’s an interesting concept, and I’m optimistic that manufacturers and operators will develop and deploy economical hybrid mobile-fixed networks.
Critical infrastructure markets like utilities and oil & gas pipelines generally have different requirements that don’t match what’s provided by standard LTE or standard WiMAX. Often utilities require higher capacity on the uplink as opposed to the downlink – directly opposite the performance delivered by typical LTE or WiMAX systems. For many applications, they also they need to have what I call “wideband spectrum” – more than narrowband but less than full broadband like that offered by the 2.5 GHz band. For these users, we generally recommend the 700 MHz Upper A Block which is available nationwide.
Utilities are exploring and using lightly licensed and unlicensed spectrum for applications including meter reading where it may be satisfactory to be a secondary user or to shared spectrum. For more demanding applications that reduce or prevent outages and increase the efficiency of the electrical network, utilities have a need for licensed spectrum where they don’t have to worry about interference or the limited power levels that are required with unlicensed spectrum or lightly licensed spectrum. Most utility applications are important and demanding enough to require dedicated spectrum.
Q: Trying to find and purchase or lease spectrum can be daunting to a newcomer. What’s the most critical advice you can offer such a person?
We talk to manufacturers every day and they are very interested in finding available licenses. The FCC has a wealth of information available on its web site, but some users find it difficult to navigate the FCC site. The “Spectrum Selector” on our web site lists all the licenses listed for sale or lease through Select Spectrum including 700 MHz, PCS, and 2.5 GHz licenses. We encourage people to visit Select Spectrum where there is a wealth of resources available. We also encourage people to call with any questions.