Thumbs up for IMT-2000

Istanbul, 30 May 2000 — After three weeks of hard negotiations, the ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference meeting in Istanbul from 8 May to 2 June approved the additional spectrum requirements for IMT-2000. The agreement effectively gives a green light to mobile industry worldwide in deploying confidently IMT-2000 networks and services.

"The entire mobile industry was looking forward to clear signals from this conference to overcome the last hurdle for global wireless systems", said ITU Secretary-General Yoshio Utsumi". "This landmark decision now provides a stable basis for investors to back up the industry and gives a clear go-ahead to manufacturers to start building equipment for IMT-2000 for their customers – operators and consumers alike", he also said.

Vino Vinodrai, Director of Industry relations and Research at Bell Mobility of Canada agrees. "This decision on spectrum now gives the assurance to operators that they can start building and deploying their IMT-2000 networks without capacity constraints" he said. "It definitely marks a major step in the IMT-2000 journey towards the global wireless information society and is a decision Bell Mobility of Canada applaudes" Mr Vinodrai added.

For Tim Hewitt who was the IMT-2000 Coordinator for Europe at WRC "the manufacturers worldwide now know the limits of the frequencies for which the terminals must be designed, within a clearly defined spectrum environment. By having a limited number of globally identified bands, the manufacturers have the best opportunity to reduce costs via economies of scale".

"Motorola is very pleased with the terrestrial IMT-2000 outcome and commends the efforts made in the spirit of compromise to reach the global objectives of IMT-2000" said Michael Kennedy, Corporate Vice-President and Director of Global Spectrum and Telecom Policy at Motorola. "The designation of global bands offers the flexibility that countries want and need in their implementation of IMT-2000 while allowing companies like Motorola to continue to develop ways of bringing low-cost, high-quality wireless internet to the world" Kennedy also said.

For Japan which has pioneered the mobile Internet, the decision is significant. "The decision taken today to provide additional spectrum for IMT-2000 is a major milestone" said Katsuya Watanabe, Director of Multimedia Mobile Communications at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. "The global mobile industry can now have the confidence to move ahead in developing 3G systems that will capture this new and exciting multimedia market. With the number of mobile internet users growing roughly at a rate of twenty thousand each day, this is very promising indeed for the rapid uptake of IMT-2000 in Japan" added Mr Watanabe.

IMT-2000 is intended to bring high-quality mobile multimedia telecommunications to a worldwide mass market based on a set of interfaces specified in the recently agreed ITU standard. The decision provides for a number of bands, available on a global basis for countries wishing to implement IMT-2000. Making use of existing mobile and mobile-satellite frequency allocations, the agreement also provides for a high degree of flexibility to allow operators to migrate towards IMT-2000 according to market and other national considerations. At the same time it does not preclude the use of these bands for other types of mobile applications or by other services to which these bands are allocated - a key factor that enabled the consensus to be reached. While the decision of the Conference globally provides for the licensing and manufacturing of IMT-2000 in the identified bands on a globally harmonized basis, each country will decide on the timing of availability at the national level according to need.

"One of the most important attributes of IMT-2000 will be the capability for global roaming with a single low-cost terminal, allowing people to do "anything, any time, anywhere" in their day-to-day telecommunications context" said Hewitt".

"ITU's vision of IMT-2000 is undoubtedly the largest telecommunications project the world has ever seen", said UMTS Forum Chairman Dr Bernd Eylert. "The UMTS Forum which represents regulators, operators, manufacturers, media and IT players from all regions of the world, view the decision of this Conference to provide the additional spectrum for IMT-2000 services and applications as a clear and positive signal to all players. And with an estimated 2 billion mobile users worldwide by 2010, this is good news indeed" Mr Eylert said.

Originally conceived in an era when mobile telecommunications provided only voice and circuit-switched low-speed data, the IMT-2000 concept has adapted to the changing telecommunication environment as its development progressed. In particular, the advent of Internet, intranet, e-mail, e-commerce and video services has significantly raised-user expectations of the responsiveness of the network and the terminals, and hence the bandwidth of the mobile channel. This demand for higher bandwidth services, coupled with the phenomenal increases in mobile penetration throughout the world’s population, has given rise to a requirement for extra spectrum for IMT-2000 to be needed by 2010, estimated by ITU to amount to160 MHz above and beyond that of the bands identified in 1992.

Some industry reports predict that 3G networks will carry traffic from one billion of the world’s cellular subscribers by 2010, accounting for US$548 billion or 66% of the total cellular service revenue. Analysts also expect that declining equipment costs and dropping airtime price will make 3G services the prime driver in subscribers growth.

Initial proposals tabled prior to WRC-2000 greatly differed both in national preferences and in approach. Countries present at the Conference therefore made an important decision to work together to identify, on a worldwide basis, a small number of bands from which each country will be able to determine how much spectrum they make available for IMT-2000. Within this spectrum, they will be able to develop their own transition plans and best migration path tailored to meet their specific conditions, thus harnessing market forces to deliver flexibility and choice.

"The flexibility built-in the decision adopted by the Conference has been key in rallying countries behind it" said Mofang Li, Chief Technical Officer at China Mobile Communications Corporation. "In China", Mrs Li explained, "we now have a customer base of over 50 million subscribers with a monthly growth of 2 to 3 million mobile subscribers". "Choice of deployment strategies and flexibility in the use of spectrum were critical to China in meeting its particular market demands" she stressed. "With today’s decision on harmonized additional spectrum worldwide coupled with the decision earlier this month on a global standard for interoperable radio interfaces, consumers everywhere will soon reap the fruits of impressive economies of scale and enjoy the convenience of global roaming at affordable price", Mrs Li added.

As the fact of having identified bands for IMT-2000 will not preclude the use of these bands by any other services to which they are allocated, it will now be very important that regulators, when licensing spectrum in those bands, keep in mind the need for sufficient spectrum to meet the expected demand for 3G services both domestically and for roaming.

"The flexible approach now embodied in the decisions of WRC required considerable compromise, as many countries needed to accommodate the global identification of frequency bands that were not necessarily their preferred national choice. However, the common recognition of the enormous social and economic importance of IMT-2000, the unique opportunity offered for true global mobile multimedia communications and the spirit of co-operation that is always present at WRCs, allowed the excellent results to be achieved" summed up Tim Hewitt.

The additional bands identified for the terrestrial component of IMT-2000 are: 806-960 MHz, 1710-1885 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz. The bands which had initially been identified in 1992 and on the basis of which licensing has already been made or is under way in many parts of the world, remained unchanged. Around 100 licenses are expected to be awarded worldwide by 2002. These bands are 1885-2025 MHz and 2110-2200 MHz. All bands globally identified for IMT-2000 have equal status.

Moreover, the Conference identified the use of additional frequency bands for the satellite component of IMT-2000. This will afford an opportunity for satellite systems in these bands to provide IMT-2000 services, subject to the regulatory provisions applicable to the mobile-satellite service. The Conference also requested the ITU to conduct a number of studies on the potential sharing and coordination between the satellite and terrestrial components of IMT-2000, between IMT-2000 and other mobile-satellite services operating in the same bands, broadcasting-satellite (TV and sound), terrestrial mobile services and other high-density applications in other services such as point-to-multipoint communication and distribution systems.

Studies on the future evolution of IMT-2000 including the provision of IP-based applications and the impact on spectrum resources will also be conducted in the next three years along with the development of harmonized frequency arrangements aimed at achieving compatibility with existing frequency arrangements used by first and second generation systems.

In a further innovative decision, new provisions were put in place by WRC-2000 to allow High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) to act as platforms for IMT-2000 terrestrial component base stations.

The ITU has also been tasked to complete signalling and communication protocols for IMT-2000 and to develop a common worldwide intersystem numbering plan and related network capabilities to facilitate worldwide roaming.

Another important area of discussion has been the need to address the requirements of developing countries and rural areas in their bid to join the global wireless information society. To this end, ITU has been asked to provide guidance to ensure that IMT-2000 can meet those needs.

Said UMTS Forum’s Eylert: "We look forward to further supporting ITU's work as it continues to drive this unique project forward to secure everyone's access to the immense social and economic benefits of the mobile information society, irrespective of the world's region in which they live".

The text of the resolutions and table of frequency allocations are found at





As approved in Plenary on 30 May. Subject to final editing. For information only.