Monday, May 22, 2006

Dean Bubley: Wierless business plans, spectrum and WRC '07

Dean Bubley posts at the Disruptive Wireless blog about the 2007 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC). Bubley notes that WRC is not especially relevant to mobile communications, but it also reviews & revises global the Radio Regulations, an international treaty. The vent hasn't been held in almost 4 years, which Bubley says "could make the outcome very interesting from the point of view of the mobile industry:"

  • Unlicenced spectrum (& especially WiFi) has fostered a great deal of innovation, investment, deployment and commercial impetus
  • 3G technologies have been deployed successfully - albeit late, and with patchy-at-best uptake
  • Mobile devices have evolved to the point at which multiradio, application-centric communications are an increasing reality
  • 2G technologies have continued to reach out to 100's of millions of new subscribers per year
  • IP communications has become completely entrenched in the fixed telecoms world, and has started bleeding over into mobile, with unpredictable results
  • Regulators have been innovating in areas such as spectrum trading, technology-neutrality, different auction techniques, setting committments for spectrum licensees
  • Satellite-based services for mobile users have been confined to small niches (Iridium, Inmarsat etc) with the exception of GPS and (possibly) DMB mobile TV
He wonders what the industry implications will be lover the next 18 months leading into the conference. He concludes:
To be honest, I don't know enough about the conference, its possible implications, or the processes that lead to recommendations. I need to get my head around it. But at least it's a "known unknown", a "rigidly defined area of uncertainty & doubt". But crucially, various decision-makers I've asked over the last couple of weeks haven't even heard of WRC, or know what it might imply. I strongly suspect that some "regulatory affairs" departments are on top of things, but I haven't seen much sign that they're liaising closely with people at the coalface of service and infrastructure development.

I'm wondering if it's another area of uncertainty & complexity which, whatever the outcomes, could have a negative short-term effect in delaying wireless deployments and investments. It could mean, for example, that the cellular industry takes a break from thinking about faster air interfaces beyond HSUPA, and concentrates on the transport/backhaul infrastructure side of things, which needs a huge upgrade anyway.