Can innovative ideas towards spectrum deployment and management foster carrier competition in Canada?

While the impending wireless spectrum auction in Ottawa is seen as increasingly important for the future of perhaps a “competitive” Canadian wireless industry as outlined in this Techvibes article, it actually may be less important than you think for the next decade ahead as new innovative and cheaper new ways to gain and manage spectrum are being developed.

Kevin Taylor, a Toronto-based mobile development consultant at Mobile Device Insight says two new technologies can accelerate and lower cost of both adding new spectrum and standards such as LTE. A product called lightRadio from Alcatel-Lucent and new standard SON (self-organizing networks) add much greater flexibility to deploy and manage evolving demands of LTE and legacy 3G and 2G devices.

lightRadio, which allows carriers to add spectrum without having to change equipment or add antennas is one possible solution. Kevin Taylor adds: “Smaller cells, adding spectrum as needed, and 50% reduction in equipment costs sounds great so an advanced network will be up and running in no time, right?”

The technology was demonstrated here in a video by Alcatel-Lucent at the 2011 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona:

Upgrading with lightRadio in different areas across Canada could potentially solve WIND and Mobilicity’s infrastructure issues of city-only coverage. It also opens opportunities for shared infrastructure.

Understanding changes to network economics of this technology could also influence Industry Minister Christian Paradis to make a more informed decision on telecom spectrum auction rules and foreign investment.

However, there would be challenges associated with IP backhaul which refers to the fiber, copper and microwave used for the transmission of data associated with the lightRadio base stations in order to hook them all up to a network with enough bandwidth.

Despite that, it could level a playing field that currently sees Telus, Rogers and Bell control much of the most powerful wireless spectrum infrastructure in Canada.

lightRadio may offer a way around the wireless infrastructure that the big three aren’t willing to license out as has happened in the landline and power industries.

If there’s any advice Taylor offers to the government it’s this: “Don’t study the idea for ten years, leadership needs to take a pragmatic approach to planning diligence”.

That’s especially the case as there is an incredibly increasing demand for mobile broadband with the rapid increase of smartphones and other mobile devices putting an intense strain on the network, especially in urban areas. There’s also an increasing demand for rural network access, which is often overlooked due to small population sizes.

In Canada, it’s not so much about the intense strain, although this is prevalent in urban areas. That’s where lightRadio and self-organizing networks can help out in the distribution of broadband resources in particular locations that have too many wireless devices attempting to access the area’s available infrastructure causing overload on existing infrastructure.

As a result, the technologies could help solve the problems of both urban wireless congestion and wireless competition.