More Mobile – ACMA to release more spectrum to mobile internet

  • 3.4GHz band open for mobile
  • WiMAX offloading can help 4G data allowances
  • 700MHz spectrum still scheduled for auction

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released new plans for the future of radio frequency use in Australia, particularly for the use of broadcasting and mobile internet. The changes come ahead of a hotly anticipated auction for the 700MHz band, formerly used for analogue TV broadcasts, expected to go ahead in early 2013.

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mobile towers

Most of the changes are related to adjustments in international law, with the most significant update being in the 3.4 – 3.6GHz band. From 2009, this high frequency band was used for satellite communications; it will now be available for mobile internet Long Term Evolution (LTE) purposes, such as 4G or WiMAX.

Radio Frequency (RF) bands have properties that almost seem to work against the wishes of the market. The higher the frequency, the more data can be pushed through per second – but the shorter the range. The 700MHz band is particularly notable for extending over very long ranges and penetrating physical phenomena (rain, walls, etc) very well.

Current mobile technologies are straining to meet the demand for data-hungry services and the need for ever faster speeds. Most brute-force attempts to overcome these difficulties involve feeding more and more fibre to each cell (mobile tower), while also increasing the overall number of cells in an area. Of course, at a certain point, the network starts to look less ‘mobile’ with tens of thousands of towers dotting the landscape.

Higher frequency bands have the potential for providing shorter range ‘load shedding’ services, such as WiMAX. In this sort of system, the long range, low frequency bands would be used for customers living in or travelling through sparsely populated areas, and then switching to the faster, shorter range connection when they drive into the city. This would require some very clever and tricky radios and software, but as computing gets more and more mobile, so too will the need for greater mobility.