BT Broadcast & Satellite Communications Contribution to ASMS Task Force
Terrestrial UMTS Operator views on Satellite-UMTS
Several European Telcos and cellular operators have recently been awarded licenses to provide UMTS services in the terrestrial portion of the 2GHz band allocated to IMT2000 services. Some have had to make considerable up-front investment, through auctions or similar mechanisms, in order to win a license, while others have been awarded licenses through a ‘beauty contest’ approach. In many (if not all) cases, the award of the license has been coupled to an obligation to provide a specific percentage of national coverage, either by population or by geography, by a certain date. This implies an opportunity for satellite delivered UMTS services. However, the licenses may be worded in such a way that this is not the case.
The UK T-UMTS Licenses
In the UK, the recently awarded UMTS licenses were awarded through auction of segments of the T-UMTS spectrum. The licenses state “The licensee shall install, maintain and use Radio Equipment ... in such a way as to enable the provision of, by no later than 31 December 2007, and to maintain thereafter, a telecommunications service by means of the Radio Equipment to an area where at least 80% of the population of the UK live.” Note that the UK licenses are for specific segments of the T-UMTS spectrum, rather than the general provision of UMTS services in any band.
BT paid over £4B for its UK T-UMTS license, with other operators paying similar amounts. The UK UMTS license holders are therefore seeking ways of meeting the license coverage requirements in a cost effective manner. This is likely to include the sharing of infrastructure development and deployment costs. However, the way the license is set out precludes the use of satellite for meeting the UK coverage obligation. Given the huge investment in T-UMTS licenses and the need to meet the coverage obligations, there is little incentive for UK operators to invest in S-UMTS infrastructure or services.
BT B&SC View of Satellite UMTS
The case has been put forward that T-UMTS is likely to roll-out slowly because of the massive investment required. It is implied that satellite will be able to provide service outside the coverage of the terrestrial network during T-UMTS deployment and beyond. In fact it is more likely that operators of UMTS networks that also operate a second generation network (GSM, GPRS etc.) will simply roam onto the second generation network and offer a lower (and cheaper) QoS when the user is outside of their UMTS coverage. It is also possible that the roll-out of T-UMTS will be faster than predicted, simply because of the need to generate a return on the license investment.
For these reasons, BT Broadcast & Satellite communications does not see a major market opportunity for satellite in UMTS network extension. The technical limitations of providing this service via satellite – no in-building coverage, the potential size of dual mode communications terminals etc. – would indicate that this is not the direction to take. Recent experience in the MSS market has also demonstrated the dangers of positioning satellite services in this way (i.e. the failure of Iridium etc.). However, there is clearly a need for existing mobile satellite users to have access to services similar to those provided in UMTS networks. ASM systems will evolve to meet this need for advanced communications services, but it is doubtful that this will grow the MSS market towards a ‘mass market’.
BT sees a significant opportunity for satellite to provide broadcast and multicast services to UMTS customers. This type of service is not explicitly covered by the existing T-UMTS licenses and terrestrial networks may struggle to provide this type of service economically. Therefore, further work should be concentrated on this aspect in terms of defining the required services, identifying the best delivery architecture and technology and how the satellite component can best be integrated with future terrestrial mobile networks.
BT Broadcast & Satellite Communications
18th May 2001
BT B&SC views on S-UMTS 18th may 2001