The last few years have seen phenomenal growth in the global demand for mobile-broadband data services. This growth is expected to continue unabated. While mobile data traffic has been roughly doubling every year for the last few years, the industry is expecting a long-term 1000x increase. To meet this challenge, the wireless-communications industry will need new resources as well as different ways of acquiring, deploying, and managing those resources. A paper by Qualcomm, Inc., “Rising to Meet the 1000x Mobile Data Challenge,” shares a vision of the efforts that are needed to achieve this goal.
All of the efforts suggested in the 14-page paper fall into three main groups: more spectrum, small cells everywhere, and higher efficiency across the system. Yet those solutions invite many questions. For example, how much more spectrum will be made available in which bands? Will it be unlicensed or licensed? And will it be available in a timely manner? Similarly, people are wondering how dense small cells can get and whether they will be used indoors, outdoors, or both. Due to problems with indoor coverage, small cells are often discussed as the solution there. Does that mean a small cell in every house, shop, or office? If so, what about interference?
The paper delves into all of these issues. For example, it notes that there are three approaches to making new spectrum available: traditional licensing processes for third and fourth generation (3G and 4G) networks; the new Authorized Share Access (ASA) regime; and the unlicensed approach for Wi-Fi services. In cases when spectrum cannot be approved for licensing within a reasonable timeframe—or on a nationwide basis—Qualcomm and its partners are proposing the new approach called ASA.
Essentially, ASA proposes a regulatory framework for instances in which spectrum holders may not be using the entire block of allocated spectrum in every part of their geographic boundaries on a 24/7 basis. For military radar, for example, spectrum might be allocated on a countrywide basis. But the radar operations themselves may only be using the spectrum at certain locations, such as the coastline. Or they may not always be using it on a 24/7 basis.
According to ASA, exclusive spectrum rights can be granted to qualified stakeholders to operate a commercial 3G/4G network in this underutilized spectrum—whenever and wherever it is available—subject to the usage needs and requirement of the incumbent spectrum rights holder. In this paper, ASA is one of many solutions put forth that can be used by the mobile wireless industry to cost-effectively face the 1000x challenge. At the same time, operators can provide an optimal mobile-broadband experience for users.
Qualcomm, Inc., 5775 Morehouse Dr., San Diego, CA 92121; (858) 587-1121, www.qualcomm.com.