Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ECTEL Consultation on Regional Radio Spectrum Plan

On September 28th, the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) completed a public consultation on a proposed review of its 2006 Regional Radio Spectrum Plan.  The consultation document, published in August 2010, does not address the 700 MHz band as it was the subject of a separate consultation in 2008-2009 (as previously mentioned on this blog).  It does, however, discuss a number of spectrum-related issues of importance to the Caribbean broadcasting and telecommunication industry, including WiMax.  The modifications to the Plan proposed by ECTEL can be broadly grouped under four headings:
  • Television and Radio Broadcasting Services:  ECTEL proposes to modify some of the frequencies allocated to broadcasters including 1605-1705 kHz (AM radio stations), 88.1-88.9 (low-power FM community radio stations), 235-267 MHz (digital audio broadcast services), 335 MHz-399 MHz (studio-to-transmitter links), 454.975-462.5625 MHz and 467.7125-470 MHz (outside broadcast television and radio).
  • GSM Services:  The consultation document proposes to allocate the 912-915 MHz band to GSM service in Dominica.  This proposal may prove to be problematic as this band is currently allocated to ISM by the ITU-T in Region 2 countries,  which includes Dominica.  ECTEL also proposes to allocate, in all ECTEL countries, the 1710-1990 MHz band to GSM service and the 1990-2025 MHz band to "future Mobile Services; eg 3G mobile services".
  • Broadband Services:  While the wording of the consultation document is somewhat unclear, it appears that ECTEL intends to allocate the 3.4-3.6 GHz band to fixed WiMax service and the 2.3-2.4 GHz band to mobile WiMax service.  There would be provision for licences to be awarded to four providers with 25 MHz each (5 blocks of 5 MHz each), plus one operator with 22 MHz (3 blocks of 5 MHz each, and one block of 7 MHz), in each band.  In addition, 120 MHz of spectrum would be made available in the 2.5 GHz band.  This spectrum would be assigned to a maximum of four operators (2 blocks of 15 MHz each) on a technology-neutral basis as this band can be used for WiMAX, IMT 2000 and MMDS service.
  • Land Mobile Services:  ECTEL is proposing to allocate the 148-174 MHz band to VHF land mobile band (with 156-163 MHz allocated for maritime mobile use) in order to facilitate the implementation of a nationwide/regional public-private network for emergency, Government, Police, etc. 
In their respective submissions, Digicel and LIME requested that ECTEL modify these proposals in order to accommodate the spectrum requirements of products they intend to offer in the Eastern Caribbean in the near future (and which they currently offer in Jamaica).  Digicel's submission disagreed with ECTEL's proposal to limit the assignments to 30 MHz per operator within the 2.5 GHz band.  According to Digicel, this is an insufficient allocation of spectrum given the volume of traffic that is expected to be generated by WiMax services.  Instead, it suggested that the available 120 MHz of spectrum be assigned to a maximum of two operators (4 blocks of 15 MHz each).  This suggestion was presumably an attempt by Digicel to harmonize the WiMax spectrum allocation in the Eastern Caribbean with its own WiMax licence in Jamaica.

LIME's submission was more focused on mobile television services.  It requested that ECTEL clarify which of the frequencies set aside for broadcasting services would encompass mobile television service. In addition, LIME requested that the UHF band (470-862 MHz) be made available for mobile TV services.  Again, LIME's arguments appeared to be an attempt to harmonize the frequency allocations in the Eastern Caribbean with its own mobile television licence in Jamaica.

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