For most of its existence the South Asian Telecom Regulators’ Council (SATRC) has been a talk shop, not particularly noted as being on the leading edge of anything.
Therefore I was very pleased to see that it is being cited as the pioneer in implementing the APT’s 700 MHz band plan that will provide enough low-frequency spectrum for quick rollout of wireless broadband, an absolute necessity for a region that has very little wires connecting homes (and still not able to justify the costs of FTTH given what people are willing to pay for broadband). The only down note is about Sri Lanka (which prides itself as the first to introduce new technology in the region) keeping out of the South Asian consensus along with Iran. This is perhaps because the government handed out the 700 band frequencies to a large number of private TV broadcasters for nothing (for Treasury) over the past few years and is thus constrained.
According to the Ericsson Mobility Report (November 2012), LTE networks are expected to cover 60% of the population in Asia Pacific by 2017, up from an estimated 1.5% in 2011. However, this coverage forecast and the connection growth forecasts discussed above are based on the assumption that coverage bands will be assigned to mobile operators to foster 4G LTE adoption in Asia.
A first step towards achieving this goal has been recently taken by the representatives of the South Asian Telecom Regulatory Council (SATRC) who announced on May 16th the joint adoption of the APT 700 MHz frequency band plan.
SATRC members include regulatory bodies from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – representing close to 2 billion people and just over 1 billion mobile connections as of Q2 2013 estimates.
During their 14th council meeting (SATRC-14), representatives of the nine member countries (with the exception of Iran and Sri Lanka) announced their commitment “to working as equal partners in order to fulfill the tremendous potential of the APT700 MHz Band Plan and to accelerate transition from analog to digital broadcast TV services in 700 MHz band (where applicable) which will free up this spectrum for its highest value use, which is mobile broadband”. The announcement also made clear that members will ensure “interference free cross-border spectrum usage” while stressing “the importance of actions at the national level to provide a roadmap with clear timelines for 700 MHz spectrum availability so that interested stakeholders have the certainty needed to plan networks and investments, and practical co-operation based on their shared interests”.