Sat, Dec 01, 2012 - Page 13 News List

Companies urge NCC to raise bandwidth ceiling

TOO LOW, TOO SLOW:The big three telecoms operators said that a 35MHz cap would make it difficult for 4G operators to boost Internet connection speed to 100Mbps

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Telecoms operators yesterday called on the national regulator to raise the bandwidth ceiling from 35 megahertz in the planned fourth-generation (4G) spectrum auction next year.

A representative of the nation’s big three telecoms operators said that the 35MHz cap would make it difficult for future 4G operators to boost their Internet connection speed to 100Mbps as requested by the National Communications Commission (NCC).

“We agreed to set an upper limit, but the 35MHz bandwidth is not sufficient to provide 100Mbps Internet access. It is possible in the lab, but not in the real world,” the representative, who declined to be named, said after a meeting arranged by the NCC to give the latest details of the 4G license auction.

The representative said that 45MHz would be a more reasonable cap. Hong Kong did not set an upper limit when it auctioned its 4G spectrum in April.

On Monday, the NCC unveiled its 4G spectrum auction guidelines. The NCC said it plans to auction the 270MHz spectrum at the end of next year, for which the regulator is expected to issue between four and eight licenses.

Bidders are required to offer at least 15MHz and are capped at 35MHz, the NCC said.

Another representative of a smaller telecoms operator yesterday said it was concerned about the NCC’s bandwidth pricing strategy.

“We have to know the pricing strategy to decide if we are going to join this auction and how to make our offer,” said the official, who also preferred to remain anonymous.

The company needs to know whether the NCC plans to auction the spectrum by lot, or by 5MHz batch, he said.

Local telecoms companies hope their concerns will be addressed in the NCC’s 4G auction rules, which are scheduled to be unveiled in March next year.

To facilitate the transition from third-generation (3G) technology to 4G, the NCC plans to allow 4G winning bidders to trade the spectrum they obtain at the auction. It is the first time the NCC is permitting telecoms companies to trade spectrum.

The regulator is also considering this new policy as a solution to the problem of auctioning the 1,800MHz frequency before current licenses expire in 2017.

As the frequency is now used by second-generation (2G) telecoms operators, the frequency will not be available until 2017, meaning winning bidders will not be able to deploy their 4G base stations until that date if they were not using the spectrum for 2G services.

The 4G licenses will run from 2014 to 2030.

One telecoms company proposed that the NCC should solve the problem prior to the auction. The phone company said it would be an option for the NCC to allocate existing 1,800MHz spectrum users a new spectrum, allowing the winning 4G bidders to fully utilize the spectrum for 15 years without any extra effort, such as having to trade spectrum.

No consensus was reached yesterday.

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