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Etisalat CTO calls for additional spectrum for LTE

Marwan Zawaydeh calls on the TRA to release additional spectrum for LTE services

Etisalat CTO calls for additional spectrum for LTE
Marwan Zawaydeh said regulators in the region must allocate the required spectrum for LTE services.

UAE telco Etisalat, which is planning to deploy an LTE network in the country by the end of the year, warned that its LTE service will be limited by a lack of spectrum.

Speaking at the recent LTE Mena conference in Dubai, Marwan Zawaydeh, CTO, Etisalat, said that the telco planned to launch its LTE service on 2.6 gigahertz spectrum.

Although this spectrum has the advantage of widespread support from vendors, Zawaydeh admitted that it would prove expensive and would fail to meet coverage requirements.

"For coverage, 2.6 gigahertz will also be very expensive, and will not meet outdoor or indoor requirements, so we believe operators will have to consider using other spectrum," he said.

"Of course the 700-800 would be ideal, because it gives the best coverage and we are working with the regulator to try to get this spectrum."

The lack of spectrum is a particular problem given that about 70% of demand for mobile data emanates from indoors, according to Zawaydeh.

"We all know that the indoor coverage is very important especially for data users because most of the traffic is normally generated from inside," he said.

"Our study and vendor study showed that 70% of the traffic in the region came from indoor and to ensure good indoor coverage, capacity and customer experience, I think all operators will have to consider using other spectrum other than 2.6."

Zawaydeh added that TRA was looking at the problem, although Etisalat had not yet received any "official feedback".

"All of the regulators will have to start to make sure this spectrum is available for the operators to encourage the growth and expansion of the LTE," he added.

However, the problem is not limited to the Middle East. Operators around the world could see their plans to launch LTE networks hampered owing to the slow pace at which governments and regulators have moved to free up the so called "digital dividend" spectrum for LTE, according to a report from Canadian research firm Maravedis.

Re-farming of digital dividend spectrum "remains many years away" in numerous countries, according to Maravedis.

The research firm predicts that there will be 59 FDD-LTE and three LTE TDD networks operational worldwide by the end of 2011.

"There will be 305 million LTE subscribers by 2016, of which 14%, or 44 million, will be TD-LTE users and the rest - 86%, or 261 million - will be FDD-LTE," said Esteban Monturus, co-author of the report.

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