ITU wants government help to avoid mobile bottleneck

It's not enough for operators to deploy femtocells or LTE, says this UN agency: government intervention is needed

Whitespace devices, LTE, femtocells, automatic Wi-Fi handover, optimized backhaul networks: wireless operators are already deploying a wide range of techniques to speed the flow of data to our smartphones, and equipment manufacturers are demonstrating many more at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

But all this will still not be enough to ensure the data continues to flow, as the number of smartphones rises from 500 million to almost two billion by 2015, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency.

The ITU wants governments to take action now, licensing additional spectrum for mobile communications networks and making it easier for operators of fixed networks to roll out the fiber links that mobile operators need to connect the growing number of mobile base stations.

"Mobile operators have been investing billions to upgrade and improve the capacity and performance of their networks, but in some high-usage cities, such as San Francisco, New York and London, we are still seeing users frustrated by chronic problems of network unavailability," ITU secretary general Hamadoun Touré warned Friday.

Whether more government intervention will help is debatable: for the high-usage cities Touré cites, governments are already well ahead of the pack.

One of the strategies he suggests, forcing TV broadcasters to switch to more efficient digital transmitters, freeing up spectrum for other uses, has already been adopted in the U.S. and the U.K. In 2008, the U.S. government auctioned off former analog TV spectrum in the 700MHz band, and Verizon Wireless has already begun offering its LTE (Long-Term Evolution) mobile broadband service in New York, San Francisco and other cities.

The U.K. too has switched off analog TV transmitters (France will follow suit this year) and is rolling out fiber connections to the home: as many as 600,000 U.K. homes could be connected to fiber by the end of this year.

While analog TV spectrum was an easy target, other frequencies could be freed up for mobile communications. For it to be cost-effective to mass produce mobile phones and modems, though, the same frequencies need to be available across continents. Such availability is decided at the World Radiocommunication Conference, a three-week-long intergovernmental event organized by the ITU every three to four years. The last WRC ended Nov. 16, 2007: The next will begin on Jan. 23, 2012, in Geneva, and mobile operators will no doubt be keeping a very close eye on discussions.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentmobilebroadbandsmartphonesregulationtelecommunicationPhones3gconsumer electronicsCarriersInternational Telecommunication UnionVerizon Wireless

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Peter Sayer

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?