Spectrum Barriers are Going to Fall

In a business where barriers to entry matter, spectrum policy is evolving in a direction that will dramatically lower such barriers. So, as competitive as the mobile industry tends to be, it is likely to get more competitive.

Spectrum costs for virtually all providers will fall as new access methods, and huge amounts of new spectrum, are brought to market.

On one hand, the lower spectrum costs will help traditional operators in both the capital investment and operating cost areas.

On the other hand, those new ways of using spectrum will enable new entrants, as barriers to entry will fall.

Though Wi-Fi offload will continue to be a key method for using unlicensed spectrum and networks as a support for mobile data access, 31 network operator executives surveyed by Tolaga Research finds executives executives also believe they will be using a number of new techniques.

The TIA study found executives believe their firms will be using techniques that essentially bond unlicensed spectrum with mobile licensed spectrum, including License Assisted Access, LTE-WLAN aggregation (LWA), LTE Wi-Fi integration or MulteFire.

Other techniques, including licensed shared access (LSA, the idea behind the Citizens Broadband Radio Service) also might be used, but respondents were not asked about every other option that might be used.

Though the role of Wi-Fi offload continues, the newer techniques go further in making access across owned and third-party assets more seamless, as well as enabling more-effective use of unlicensed spectrum to support services traditionally offered only on networks using licensed spectrum.

About 55 percent of respondents plan to deploy Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) and prefer the notion of operating LTE in unlicensed spectrum. Wi-Fi offload solutions, such as LTE + Wi-Fi Link Aggregation (LWA) and LTE Wi-Fi Integration, (a forerunner to the LWA), were both favored by 41 percent of respondents, the TIA report says.

A possible wrinkle is that the survey seems to be weighted towards “mobile” industry executives, not executives from other industries that might eventually wind up competing with the traditional mobile providers. Some of those potential competitors--especially those with large hotspot assets--might well favor use of MulteFire at levels most traditional mobile operators would not do.

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