My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: GOJ and MSTEM auctioning WiMaX and AWS Spectrum by Monday December 5th 2013 - AWS for Point-to-point, Point-to-Multipoint Networks and Residential WiMaX for Economic Prosperity

Sunday, November 17, 2013

GOJ and MSTEM auctioning WiMaX and AWS Spectrum by Monday December 5th 2013 - AWS for Point-to-point, Point-to-Multipoint Networks and Residential WiMaX for Economic Prosperity

“This does not mean that our quest to improve competition and to attract a new player into the sector is over. We recognise that Spectrum is a valuable national resource and if the time is not right to allocate 700 MHz frequency, there will be another opportunity.”

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell in his address to the Jamaica Computer Society Lifetime Achievement Awards

After the failure of the 700 MHz Spectrum Auction on Friday October 20th 2013 when no-one submitted a bid, the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) is back again with other lucrative Spectrum to Auction as stated in “Government goes to market for alternative broadBand licences bidders”, published Wednesday, November 13, 2013 BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter, The Jamaica Observer. The Bids for these new blocks of Spectrum are due by Monday December 5th 2013.

Telecom Provider LIME is apparently interested as they’ve already earmarked some US$79 million (JA$8.3 billion) to upgrade their Network to HSDPA+ (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) starting in October 2013 as stated in “Telecom undertaking $8.3b Network upgrade”, published Wednesday, November 13, 2013, The Jamaica Observer. This means that they’re upgrading their Fiber Optic Backhaul and thus it puts them in the perfect situation to also do AWS and possibly WiMaX as the increased Capacity would have to be used up by Broadband based Services.

This time around the Spectrum being auctioned is suitable for WiMaX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) and AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) and as such may be a lot less pricey as the 700 MHz Spectrum. Specifically the Spectrum up for grabs are as follows:

1.      66 MHz in the 1800 MHz Band
2.      92 MHz in the 1900 MHz Band
3.      130 MHz in the 2.5/2.6 GHz Band
4.      50 MHz in the 1700/2100 MHz Band 

The deployment timelines are as follows:

New Telecom Providers

1.      30% of population covered within two (2) years
2.      90% of population covered within Five (5) years

Incumbent Telecom Providers

1.      50% of population covered within one year and six months (18 months)
2.      90% of population covered within four (4) years

That failure was mainly because Jamaican’s aren’t ready for 4G LTE in term of being able to afford to cost, or even to have a culture that can see the importance of even paying for high speed Internet. This a problem easily remedied via the introduction of low cost, low power computers such as Tablets and smartphones.

BroadBand a gateway to economic Prosperity – Jamaicans attitudes to Internet needs changing

As argued in my blog article entitled “Jamaica's 700MHz Spectrum Auction fails to attract bidders on Friday October 11 2013 - Jamaicans Lack interest in BroadBand Internet and no Telecom Regulator for the Sector”, the pragmatism of Jamaicans to BroadBand Internet adoption is the real reason for the lack of interest by investors.

Jamaicans only see anything as being useful if it serves a purpose in general life. As using the Internet and having an Internet capable computer isn’t a great priority, only a necessity for children going to school as well as a status symbol.

Hence the need to elevate access to Broadband Internet as a Fundamental Right on the same level as Life, Liberty, and Freedom of assembly as laid out in Section Three of the Constitution as well as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms recently added to the Jamaican constitution as argued in my Geezam blog article entitled “Jamaica’s Low Net Penetration – BroadBand Internet A Universal Right”.

Why is Broadband Internet so important? Here are a few stats to munch on according to a 2012 report published by the Broadband Commission of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO):

1.      Jamaica ranked 123rd of 195 countries in 2012 in terms of Mobile Broadband penetration
2.      46.5% of Jamaicans are estimated to use the Internet
3.      23% of households had Internet access
4.      4.3% have fixed Broadband service
5.      100% Mobile phone penetration
6.      1.6% of inhabitants have Mobile Broadband Service
7.      8% are presently using High-speed Internet Service

Clearly Mobile Broadband and High-speed (Wired) Broadband usage is low, signaling a clear space for AWS for Businesses and WiMaX to provide Wireless Broadband Internet access to fill that gap. Similar studies done in other countries makes the following correlation between GDP Growth and Broadband Access: 10% increase in Telecommunications and Broadband penetration translates to a 1.3% increase in GDP.

It’ll be a hard sell to Jamaicans now so hungry that Sly Mongoose is on the Menu this Christmas 2013 as stated in my blog article entitled “Jamaicans now Eating Sly Mongoose as Chicken Back shortage Gets closer to Christmas - Family and Community Gardens needed to Grow what we Eat and reduce Food Import Bill”.

Spectrum sale and ITU/3GPP – MSTEM finally following the Spectrum Roadmap

In addition to this, the Ministry of Science, Technology Energy and Mining cannot use the sale of Spectrum to make up a shortfall in the Budget. They have to follow the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Spectrum guidelines, which stipulate that the unassigned blocks of Spectrum that are free and clear be auctioned before moving to next Generation Services on the 3GGP/ITU Spectrum Roadmap.

This would help to make sure unused Spectrum from previous attempts is cleared off the books so as to get the SMA (Spectrum Management Authority) portfolio of Spectrum auctioned and in use, generating revenue for Jamaica. Look on this as a landowner selling land. Before he can sell the prime plots of land, he has to first sell those plots of land for which there may be little in the way of commercial value except to a select few investors. Then once he’s got the market going, he can then demand even higher prices for his prime agriculturally productive land.

The Ministry of Science, Technology Energy and Mining has being going about it back ways by trying to auction off the prime land i.e. 700MHz Spectrum, first instead of clearing up the backlog of Spectrum in other areas that remains underutilized and are free and clear ready of occupancy.

But a Telecom Engineer looking at these Higher Spectrums may curiously wonder what use could such higher frequencies have to Telecom Providers, especially as they don’t work very well with Mobile phones indoors and are basically LOS (Line of Sight), good only for Point-to-point Networks? Worse, a these high frequencies, full mobility is limited, with the Receiving Antenna having to be stationary and not moving as in a vehicle.

After all, it’s well known among Telecoms Engineers that the best Spectrum that works both inside and outdoors is in the 900 MHz 800 MHz, 850 MHz and 700 MHz blocks, which can easily penetrate walls that contain steel, as are most housing structures in Jamaica.

So what uses for these spectrum can best utilize the spectrum? The answer: WiMaX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) and AWS (Advanced Wireless Services).

Microwave Spectrum – Auctioning Spectrum for Point-to-point and Last Mile Data Services

Anything above 1000 MHz or 1 GHz is basically in the Microwave region and is best used for point-to-point communications Services, such as Backhaul for Mobile Telecom that carries the Traffic around the main Ring to the MSC (Mobile Switching Center) to route and terminate Voice Calls and Data Access to the Internet.

In Jamaica, the SMA usually auctions Spectrum in pairs e.g. LIME uses 850 MHz and 1900 MHz and Digicel uses 900 MHz and 1800 MHz The reasons for this is that most feature Mobile phone in Jamaica are Dual-Band and the UE (User Equiptment) in this case a Mobile phone in my example, can switch seamlessly between the two Spectrums in case one is congested with Traffic.

The Lower Spectrum Band (900 MHz, 850 MHz) usually works both indoors and outdoors whereas the Higher Bands (1800 MHz, 1900 MHz) are usually only good when you’re close and in perfect LOS (Line of Sight) to the tower and the Lower Band is congested.

They also use the Higher Bands to transfer Voice and Data Traffic Load during the scheduled maintenance window late at night, which is usually from 12 midnight to 5 am in the morning. This allows the Telecom Provider’s subscribers and customers to continue making limited Calls late at night, as it’s assumed that at that night owl hours, most Jamaicans are asleep.

Interestingly too, the 2.5/2.6 GHz Band which is partially occupied currently by Digicel for their WiMaX Network, known commercially as 4G Broadband, is not being fully utilized. This as albeit commercially viable Spectrum usually reserved for free private point-to-point Microwave Networks, with the users only having to register their use of the Spectrum.

As such, most Telecom Providers tend to have their Higher Bands empty of Traffic most of the time, only being occupied if the Lower Bands are congested with Traffic, as most cell phones and UE use the Lower Bands by default.

AWS – Point-to-point and Point-to-Multipoint Networks to connect Business in Rural Jamaica

The Spectrum listed above is undesirable as it requires that the UE e.g. Greenpacket Ex-250 Modems that use this Spectrum have their Antenna located outside or close to a window facing the Cell tower provisioned with the WiMaX Service, as is the case with Digicel’s WiMaX Service as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to setup and troubleshoot your Digicel 4G Broadband Modem”.

There are many that argue that 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) is better than WiMaX, arguments that I’ve presented in my blog article entitled “LTE vs WiMax 4G - Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors”. Despite this, WiMaX is an excellent Last-mile option for Telecom Providers to provide Internet access.

So too are the 1800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2100 MHz bands for AWS, which allows Telecom Providers to provision Point-to-Point and Point-to-Multipoint Data Services for Business Customers looking to set up an islandwide Intranet. This would allow them to interconnect their various Businesses to their internal Intranet without spending money on their own Private Microwave Point-to-Point Network and thus save on the cost of Internet access.

Evidence of this demand can be seen by the amount of Business places that have private Microwave Antennas, usually squarish or dish shaped, that utilize the 60 GHz, 66 GHz, 5.5 GHz, 2.5 GHz/2.6 GHz Bands. These frequencies as mentioned before are useful for direct LOS (Line of Sight) and only work well in fair weather, experiencing significant signal degradation when the weather gets very windy or rainy, as this either shakes the Antenna’s aim to the other Microwave Antenna or causes attenuation of the Microwave signal.

Clearly, these Business places use these private Microwave Antennas to interconnect their Business scattered across the Corporate Area to their Internal Intranet, reducing the cost of not only phone calling but also allowing Internet Access provisioned at one Business location to be shared among that Businesses various branches.

Thus even if one or several of your branches is in the Country, using such a Point-to-Point or point –to-Multipoint Networks allows your save on provisioning Internet access at every location and your use of VPN Services to interconnect your virtual work team across the island by allowing you to share your Broadband Internet Resources available at one location islandwide.

This is the market that AWS and WiMaX targets. By having their Agisson or Andrews Antennas (the long ones you see on Cell towers) installed and provisioned for AWS and WiMaX Services, a Telecom Provider can allow a Business place to do exactly that but much more cheaply. These as they wouldn’t have to buy their own Microwave Antennas, register Spectrum or pay a private contractor for Maintenance. They’d get that all in one low monthly Postpaid package from the Telecom Provider.

WiMaX for Wireless Broadband - Residential Last Mile Solution for Economic Prosperity

While AWS would allow Telecom Providers to tap into the lucrative Private Microwave Network Market, WiMaX would still continue to serve the same purpose of bringing Wireless Broadband to people living in the Rural Areas. Effectively, it would allow Telecom Providers to make money form a Business Grade service while providing Internet access to the Rural Communities in what’s commonly known as the Last Mile.

Via this Spectrum License offer for the 2.5 GHz and 2.6 GHz Bands that are used to provision WiMaX, it means that more small Telecom Operators can gain licenses to operate WiMaX Networks in Jamaica and thus connect more Residential customers to Wireless Broadband Internet.

Granted there are other Telecom Providers in Jamaica providing Wireless Broadband, mainly via Municipal Wi-Fi Networks such as Dekal Wireless as described in my Geezam Blog article entitled “Crouching LIME Huawei E586 Mi-Fi – Hidden Dekal Wireless Dragon”.

There’s even the possibility that Telecom Provider LIME may even be planning to expand their FTTH (Fiber to The House) Network to carry Triple Play services in a bid to head off the challenge posed to their Landline dominance by Triple Play Provider FLOW as stated in my blog article entitledLIME rolls out new Business themed ADSL and Local and International Landline Calling Bundles - DigiHome offense could Herald the coming of LIME FTTH and relaunch of LIME TV”.

But these Network deployments have been slowed due to the same reasons as mentioned for the failure of the 700 MHz Spectrum Auction; lack of interest by the Jamaican public in Broadband Internet and the high cost of connecting to Broadband Internet.

Hopefully, the GOJ will seek to use advertising and marketing to get Jamaican interested in AWS for Businesses and WiMaX for Residential Wireless Broadband Internet access. If they can, the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining stands a better chance of getting bidders to bid for these blocks of Spectrum. Otherwise the result will be the same as the failed 700 MHz Auction.

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