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New Spectrum Paves Way to 4G



Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S made several changes to the rules governing the commercial services portion of the 700 MHz band. The goals of these changes are aimed at helping create "a national broadband network for public safety that will address the interoperability problems of today’s system, provide for a more open wireless platform that will facilitate innovation and investment, and facilitate the emergence of next-generation wireless broadband services in both urban and rural areas."

This ruling is an important step in the continued evolution of the industry and is helping pave the way to 4G.

I invited John Hoadley, Nortel’s newly appointed Vice President of 4G Business and Ecosystem Development, to share his views. John has been with Nortel for more than 18 years in a wide spectrum of roles, including as leader of Nortel’s Wireless Technology Lab (WTL), which has been largely responsible for Nortel’s leadership in OFDM and MIMO – the foundations for all 4G wireless technologies.


Congratulations to the FCC once again for its leadership in opening new spectrum to pave the way to the future.

Over the last 12 years, the FCC has been the global leader in making attractive spectrum available to new and existing wireless carriers. By my count, the FCC has auctioned off more than 450 MHz worth of attractive spectrum at 700 MHz, 1.7/2.1 GHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz. 700 MHz is one of the top prizes for any wireless carrier because its great propagation characteristics allow for large rural cell sites and good in-building coverage.

Looking back, the long-term impact of the auction of 120 MHz of spectrum at 1.9 GHz in 1995-1996 has been impressive:

  1. The US has one of the most competitive wireless markets in the world. Look in any paper, on TV, on the Web. US consumers have lots of wireless choices.
  2. Each U.S. wireless user chalks up more than 800 minutes of wireless voice each month (source: Pyramid Research, 1Q07), far outpacing any other country.
  3. Innovation and creativity are thriving. Blackberrys are ubiquitous. Early high-speed data offerings, such as Verizon’s V CAST and Sprint's Power Vision, are gaining traction.

So, what is next as carriers start to introduce new services at 700 MHz, 1.7/2.1 GHz and 2.5 GHz? 4G, starting with WiMAX 802.16e. Success in 4G will occur when consumers and devices are connected — in fact, when they are hyperconnected — to an affordable wireless broadband network. Low cost and convenience will allow users to have full access to the web and applications wherever they and their laptop, game device, MP3 player, etc. are.

There are 3 essential ingredients that will make 4G work: embedded silicon, OFDM – MIMO, and adequate spectrum.

  1. Embedded silicon in laptops, game devices, etc. allows all of the consumer electronic devices in our lives to be conveniently hyperconnected at a low cost. Companies like Intel, Qualcomm and TI will make this happen.
  2. OFDM-MIMO standards, along with other advanced antenna techniques, improve the spectral efficiency (the number of bits/Hz that can be sent) by 4 or more times what is possible today. If wireline networks are any indication, users want lots of bits (throughput) for video, images and music; therefore, the improved spectral efficiency of OFDM-MIMO is essential.
  3. Adequate spectrum gives the capacity and scalability needed to deliver 4G.

Again, congratulations to the FCC. You have done your part by continuing to deliver spectrum in a proactive, timely fashion to the market. Using the spectrum to make 4G a reality is now up to us.

By John August 2, 2007 9:24 pm





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