Management of National Asset – Frequencies

Somewhat more than twenty years ago – on 1st of July 1991 – world’s first GSM call was made. This mobile network had been designed by Omnitele’s consultants. Brand new digital standard ensured more efficient use of frequencies than older analogue standard.

Improved efficiency and effectiveness
Since then, efficiency and effectiveness in using frequencies has improved tremendously. New cellular network standards and technologies do drive up spectral efficiency. Over the years, mobile network operators have accumulated knowledge of their customers and traffic patterns they generate. This enables planning to be done in more frequency efficient manner. On top of this, improved planning methodologies and tools have contributed their fair share to this equation.

Innovative frequency reuse mechanisms
Although drastic efficiency improvements have been achieved, frequencies are getting to be an ever more scarce resource. One alternative to improve the situation is to look into frequencies populated by terrestrial TV. The band utilized by terrestrial TV offers an excellent balance between transmission capacity and distance coverage.

Many countries are in transition from analogue terrestrial television standards to digital terrestrial television standards. At the same time, consumers will increasingly see high definition(HD) television as a hygiene requirement from their service provider.

Some network operators have opted in using cellular network site grid and low-powered transmitters – this has enabled spectral efficient system when compared to use of traditional high powered transmitters. Omnitele has been heavily involved in planning these broadcasting networks.

Regulator’s alternative
In many markets number of mobile subscribers and traffic are in increase and thus the regulator has to assess different options in order to facilitate the expected growth. Relationship between increase in mobile phone market penetration and country’s GDP growth has been proposed in different studies. However, exactly then a classical economic problem of scarcity emerges – trade-off decisions must be made.

Regulators’ challenge is to find an optimal balance between different uses in order to advance development of information society and make the citizens better off. Key options in frequency allocation include administrative and market-based models as well as mixed models. Market-led models have gained popularity during the past few years due to fast technological development.

Building a solid regulatory framework and enforcing it, does require excellent understanding of how different frequencies are being used in efficient and effective manner. Traditional linear improvements will not be sufficient in the future – technology and business model innovations are needed. In 1991 moving from old analogue standard to a digital standard was a step into a right direction but certainly a lot still remains to be done.