Reallocating radio frequencies to allow high-speed mobile broadband could open the way out of the recession, delegates to the GSMA Mobile Broadband Congress in Barcelona were told this week.
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The release of new spectrum for mobile broadband services in 2009 would add the equivalent of $211bn to China's GDP, and $95bn to India's GDP in return for investments of $59bn and $20bn respectively, said researchers for the GSMA, which represents the global mobile industry.
At the GSMA's leadership summit, industry leaders called for governments to support the roll-out of mobile broadband services to drive economic growth.
Wang Jianzhou, CEO of China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile network operator, said, "The rolling out and operation of 3G networks in China will create 300,000 jobs directly and indirectly." He said investments in so-called 3G networks would directly boost the telecom manufacturing industry while advanced handsets and applications would drive consumer spending.
The CEOs of Ericsson, VimpelCom, Telecom Italia, Telenor Group and Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, called on governments to harmonise their spectrum allocations and to create a stable regulatory environment to encourage investment.
They wanted 100MHz of the 400MHz of low-frequency spectrum freed up by the switch from analogue to digital television to enable the roll-out of cost-effective mobile broadband networks.
Deploying a mobile broadband network using 700MHz spectrum, for example, could cost 30% of the cost of deploying the same network using the 2100MHz spectrum that underpins most of today's 3G mobile networks, they said. Access to the lower frequencies would make rural areas and other "white spots" economically viable for mobile operators, it said.
They quoted World Bank estimates that connecting an individual to a mobile network could cost one-tenth of the cost of providing a new fixed-line connection.
Franco Bernabe, CEO of Telecom Italia, said, "Bandwidth is the necessary driver for direct investments such as radio access infrastructure and demand for fibre-optic backhauling. It is also a driver of indirect investment, through the emergence of new market players and new services."
The Earth Institute's Sachs said, "Mobile technologies are the most powerful tools we have for combating extreme poverty in the most isolated parts of the world."
He said mobile phones were being deployed to expand agro-business, e-governance, banking, and commerce throughout poor countries as well as in health care and education.
"Digital technologies will play a core role in ending poverty and in enabling the world to join together through markets, social networks, and co-operative efforts to solve our common challenges," he said.