Monday, December 13, 2010
The first barrier to getting LTE in Canada is the 700 MHz band needed for LTE is currently occupied by TV stations operating on channels 52-69. The 700 MHz band will be cleared when Canada's DTV transition happens on August 31st. All TV stations will have to move to lower channels, even the rebroadcast relays even though those will be allowed to stay on Analog will have to move to a lower channel. Once the spectrum is cleared, then Industry Canada in consultation will hold an auction to sell licences to operate LTE services in the 700 MHz band. The process of the Auction could last a year or more.
After the auction process, the carriers that won licenses have to upgrade their networks in the case of incumbent carriers or build their networks in the case of startup carriers. This could take another year or more. At minimum it will 2013 before any LTE 4G service can launch in Canada. Rogers and Bell are currently field testing LTE in Ontario but their networks are already traffic heavy with current HSPA traffic and legacy GSM and CDMA traffic which will remain on their networks for several years to come. The incumbent carriers will need to win some licenses in the 700 MHz band before they can roll out LTE service.
Shaw Communications already owns licenses to offer wireless communications services using the Advanced Wireless Spectrum (AWS) bands found at 1700 MHz and 2100 MHz. Shaw has stated that they intend to use LTE as the technology to deliver Wireless service to consumers. It will be advisable that Shaw will wait to bid on 700 MHz spectrum to supplement their existing licenses on AWS. Subscribers on Wind Mobile and Mobilicity have discovered AWS has proven to be notorious prone to dead sports in densely populated urban areas. Service on the 700 band will be less prone to dead spots.
Subscribers on regional carriers such as Sasktel and MTS, as well as subscribers on startup carriers Wind Mobile and Mobilicity will have a longer wait as financing network upgrades for LTE will be an additional issue that these carriers will have to face. Building or upgrading networks to support current HSPA has added an incredible debt load that these carriers will have to carry for many years to come. Upgrading to LTE will add to this existing debt which will lead to a couple more years of delay.
Long Term Evolution seems aptly named especially for Canadians, because we'll see LTE sometime- in the long term.
More information on Long Term Evolution (LTE)
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