ITU wants government help to avoid mobile bottleneck

It's not enough for operators to deploy femtocells or LTE, says this UN agency: government intervention is needed

Whitespace devices, LTE, femtocells, automatic Wi-Fi handover, optimized backhaul networks: wireless operators are already deploying a wide range of techniques to speed the flow of data to our smartphones, and equipment manufacturers are demonstrating many more at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

But all this will still not be enough to ensure the data continues to flow, as the number of smartphones rises from 500 million to almost two billion by 2015, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency.

The ITU wants governments to take action now, licensing additional spectrum for mobile communications networks and making it easier for operators of fixed networks to roll out the fiber links that mobile operators need to connect the growing number of mobile base stations.

"Mobile operators have been investing billions to upgrade and improve the capacity and performance of their networks, but in some high-usage cities, such as San Francisco, New York and London, we are still seeing users frustrated by chronic problems of network unavailability," ITU secretary general Hamadoun Touré warned Friday.

Whether more government intervention will help is debatable: for the high-usage cities Touré cites, governments are already well ahead of the pack.

One of the strategies he suggests, forcing TV broadcasters to switch to more efficient digital transmitters, freeing up spectrum for other uses, has already been adopted in the U.S. and the U.K. In 2008, the U.S. government auctioned off former analog TV spectrum in the 700MHz band, and Verizon Wireless has already begun offering its LTE (Long-Term Evolution) mobile broadband service in New York, San Francisco and other cities.

The U.K. too has switched off analog TV transmitters (France will follow suit this year) and is rolling out fiber connections to the home: as many as 600,000 U.K. homes could be connected to fiber by the end of this year.

While analog TV spectrum was an easy target, other frequencies could be freed up for mobile communications. For it to be cost-effective to mass produce mobile phones and modems, though, the same frequencies need to be available across continents. Such availability is decided at the World Radiocommunication Conference, a three-week-long intergovernmental event organized by the ITU every three to four years. The last WRC ended Nov. 16, 2007: The next will begin on Jan. 23, 2012, in Geneva, and mobile operators will no doubt be keeping a very close eye on discussions.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags telecommunicationregulationsmartphonesPhonesmobilegovernmentInternational Telecommunication UnionVerizon Wirelessbroadbandconsumer electronics3gCarriers

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?