Globe hits ?erroneous? claim of ICT group on 700 MHz spectrum

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Taking a combative stance, mobile operator Globe Telecom has lambasted an ICT advocacy group for presenting ?erroneous facts? on the 700 MHz spectrum in its letter to the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).

Globe chief technology and information officer Gil Genio
Globe chief technology and information officer Gil Genio

In a press statement, the Ayala-led telco said the assertions of Internet Society-Philippines Chapter (ISOC) in its letter to the PCC opposing the PLDT and Globe?s acquisition of San Miguel Corporation’s telecommunications assets are inaccurate.

Globe said one such erroneous claim by ISOC is that the 700MHz does not have special properties when compared to other frequencies.

Gil B. Genio, chief technology and information officer of Globe, said the use of the 700 MHz will extend the company?s LTE footprint even to areas that were previously unserved even by 3G technology.

?The 700 MHz provides an additional capacity layer over existing 3G and LTE capacity layers using frequencies on the 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz band, and the 2500 MHz bands,? Genio said.

?As a result of this layer, customers at the cell edge coverage of the high frequency capacity layers are served by the 700 MHz providing better experience to these customers. As an off-shoot of these, the 3G and 4G layers using high frequency band are offloaded, providing additional capacity for better mobile data experience of our customers,? he explained.

In his letter to the ISOC, Genio clarified that mobile service providers would normally favor higher bands (such as 2300 or 2600) because they can carry more information for the same MHz slice over low frequency bands (such as 700/900).

However, with the increasing adoption for mobile data as a result of smartphone usage, more high speed internet users are using the same cell site owing to the low site density situation in the Philippines, according to Globe.

As a result, mobile service providers have begun to use a variety of methods to support more users. One method is to split up the cell sites, effectively increasing site density and lowering the number of users using the same cell site, Genio explained.

Other techniques include re-using spectrum at various sectors, or even layering and aggregating frequency bands to support more users, he added.

?Unfortunately, the ?experts? and the public do not recognize the importance of increasing site density or adding more cell sites, which is a huge challenge to delivering better telco services in the Philippines. It is because of the inability to add sites that more frequency slices are necessary in order to support more high speed users per cell site,? the executive pointed out.

“Aside from its ability to carry information, the use of the 700 MHz band provides better coverage versus higher frequency bands (such as 2300 or 2600), and therefore mobile service providers can support more high speed users using the same tower or cell site footprint that currently exists today. Regardless of frequency band, additional spectrum is still an additional layer for capacity,” said Genio.

The ISOC, whose local chapter is chaired by industry veteran Winthrop Yu, has been critical of the industry because of the slow internet speed in the country.

But Genio said speed is a function of several variables: how far the user is from a cell site, how many other users are being served by the same cell site, the aggregate bandwidth from the cell site to a mobile service provider core network and internet backbone, and as important, the size of the frequency spectrum and its position that dictates how much information can be carried.

?Even if we assume that all players have equal spectrum, which is not, users can enjoy higher speeds if there is a larger slice of frequency spectrum, the slice being more at low frequency bands and smaller at higher frequency bands (without forgetting the distance to the cell site),? he said.

Also, the backhaul requirement posed by the archipelagic nature of the country is another major challenge, Genio said, noting that the primary means of broadband access in the country remains wireless broadband.

?In using wireless technology, it is more pervasive, however over the long-term, it will have difficulty in matching the throughput rates or speed of fixed broadband network. Hence our desire to build more infrastructure as fast as we can,? he said.

He also pointed out that the average amount of spectrum bandwidth assigned to wireless operators is 401 MHz in Asia Pacific, 460 MHz in Europe and 296 MHz in Latin America.

?Prior to the buy-out deal with San Miguel, Globe?s spectrum holdings only totaled 210 MHz, increasing to 340 MHz after the deal, still below the average in the region,? Genio said.

ISOC, for its part, has issued a rejoinder saying that while it agrees with some of the points raised by Globe, the group said spectrum assignments should not be based on current subscribers or usage as this would unduly favor existing telco players.

?Instead, we take the view that sufficient spectrum should be reserved for, at least one, perhaps more new entrants, as well as for public, shared or unlicensed uses,? the group said.

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