700 MHz Wireless Services: What Businesses Need to Know
When Canada’s television broadcasters switched from analog to all-digital transmission of their signals a few years back, the country’s wireless telecom industry and its customers derived a valuable dividend in the form of a big chunk of wireless spectrum that was freed up for use by mobile devices.
Here are some frequently asked questions about this newly available 700 MHz wireless spectrum and what it means for Canadian businesses and consumers.
1. What is the 700 MHz spectrum?
Artificially generated radio waves that travel at the speed of light are used to carry all the communications signals used in radio and television broadcasting and in wireless or mobile telephony. Waves come in different frequencies, measured in megahertz (MHz). The 700 MHz band of frequencies is clustered at the relatively lower end of that part of the spectrum that’s used for broadcasting and communications. Its wavelengths are relatively longer than almost all the other frequency bands currently used in cellular or mobile telephone services.
2. What advantages does 700 MHz offer?
The 700 MHz spectrum band with its longer wavelengths is particularly well suited for the most advanced wireless services, like the 4G LTE or Long-Term Evolution services now being rolled out across Canada. In rural areas, these wavelengths can travel very long distances without deteriorating, making it easier for carriers to provide high-speed mobile broadband in rural Canada. And in densely populated urban areas, the same properties mean these wavelengths are good for penetrating dense structures like buildings, elevators, basements and parking garages. All this should add up to clearer and more consistent reception for mobile customers.
3. How did this spectrum become available?
When Canadian television broadcasters converted their analog broadcast signals to all-digital signals, space was freed on the spectrum. The Canadian government divided the newly available spectrum into seven licence blocks in 14 geographic service areas, for a total of 98 new licences and auctioned off these licences in February.
4. Why do mobile service providers like 700 MHz?
All of Canada’s mobile service providers are keen to expand their networks so more of the country is covered by their services, new services can be introduced, and all those services can be made more robust. This is especially true of the fastest and most advanced new service, LTE, that makes possible next-generation broadband services like fast Internet surfing on the go, Mobile TV and a huge range of new mobile apps and media for consumers and business users.
Earlier this year, Bell launched Canada’s first 700 MHz spectrum LTE service. In all, Bell acquired 31 licenses when Industry Canada auctioned off 700 MHz spectrum in February. These 700 MHz licences will allow Bell to bring advanced 4G mobile broadband service to small towns, rural locations and Canada’s North, with an objective to deliver advanced LTE to more than 98% of the Canadian population.
The bottom line
The roll out of 700 MHz services really is a win for all the players in Canada’s telecommunications sector. The federal government — and, so, the Canadian taxpayer — earned $5.27-billion through February’s spectrum auction. Canada’s wireless carriers gained new spectrum, arguably the most important resource they need. And consumers can expect faster, more reliable and more advanced wireless services.