A spectrum plan with the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of smartphones is increasingly being endorsed around the world. Over a dozen countries are committed to or seriously considering adopting the plan, including Australia, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and the United Arab Emirates.
Australia, led by the ACMA, has been a key driver in developing the band plan known as the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) 700 MHz spectrum band plan. It offers the opportunity for massive economies of scale, enabling cheaper devices and international roaming benefits.
The APT 700 MHz plan identifies 45 MHz of paired spectrum within 703-803 MHz optimised for mobile broadband. The plan has been adopted as a standard by the international 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) as a band for Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology and provides the most efficient use of the spectrum possible.
In a recent speech delivered in Mexico City, ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said that 'the increasing adoption of the APT 700 MHz plan around the world is testimony to the efficiency and utility of the plan and recognition of the immense economies of scale and roaming benefits the plan will make available'.
Mr Chapman's presentation at the Latin American Spectrum Conference 2012 is part of a coordinated effort by the ACMA to advocate global adoption of the APT 700 MHz band plan. In 2013, as part of the digital dividend auction, the ACMA will allocate the 700 MHz band using the APT band plan.
Previously, senior ACMA officers have spoken on the benefits of the APT plan at events in Stockholm, Singapore, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Mr Chapman also met with Mr Francois Rancy, Director of the International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Bureau, and Luis Lucatero, Head of Regulatory Policy at Cofetel (Mexico's telecommunications regulator), to discuss the benefits of adopting the APT plan for the 700 MHz band.
The only real alternative to the APT 700 MHz band plan is the US 700 MHz band plan, which is highly fragmented and offers far less spectrum for mobile broadband use. Significantly, the US plan only provides for 10 MHz LTE channels, while the APT plan offers multiple 20 MHz LTE channels, widely regarded as the preferred channel bandwidth for LTE systems.
'The APT 700 MHz band plan has the opportunity to be the most highly harmonised, nearly worldwide, band for mobile broadband, and the only one below 1 GHz that offers the potential for markets totalling many hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people,' Mr Chapman said.
The resulting economies of scale for APT band plan-compliant devices are expected to be massive, with corresponding economic, consumer and societal benefits. As a consequence, the future development of a cheap smartphone (perhaps as low as $30) was a real possibility, said Mr Chapman.