Ministry's excuses on 4G delays ring hollow

Gad Perez

As far as promoting 4G technology, for the benefit of the industry and country, and dealing with the issue of antenna are concerned, the Communications Ministry has recorded a resounding failure.

For the Ministry of Communications, the government's term is ending on a successful note. Mobile telephony prices have fallen, and the profits of the triopoly that previously existed in the market have been reduced. But it is impossible to ignore the other side of the equation: as far as promoting 4G technology, for the benefit of the industry and country, and dealing with the issue of antenna are concerned, the Ministry of Communications has recorded a resounding failure.

4G was on the agenda of the Go Mobile conference last week, Ministry of Communications director general Eden Bar-Tal, who participated in the main panel, said that he saw no reason to ruin "the 4G party, but there are real challenges in the field, alongside commercial interests." He said that LTE required 20 mega of bandwidth for each carrier, a capacity which did not now exist. Devices that use this network's capabilities did not exist either, he said, adding, "This means that there is no meaningful difference in performance between the current network and what should be, but we will do what is necessary to be there."

Bar-Tal's remarks are inaccurate, to put it mildly.

1. 4G can also work on 10 megahertz bandwidths (and even less), as Ericsson Israel general manager Alon Berman told "Globes". "In 10-megahertz bandwidths, LTE has double the performance of 3G and enables new network capacity beyond 3G, which is already crowded." Therefore, 4G is urgently needed now.

It is true that there is a problem vacating frequencies used by the Ministry of Defense, but this is only because the Ministry of Communications wants to benefit HOT Mobile Ltd. and Golan Telecom Ltd., which won the frequencies tender. The ministry therefore delayed the tender for 4G, which was supposed to be published in September 2011. En route, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Finance fought over the amount of compensation that the IDF would receive for vacating the frequencies, with the result that the tender has not yet been published, nor is it on the horizon.

2. LTE devices do exist (there are 30 million subscribers worldwide), and 90% of the devices now on sale are smartphones, with the rest tablets and laptops.

3. 96 LTE networks are operating in 46 countries. The networks' customers receive far better network quality compared with customers of 3G networks. Data download and upload times are much faster too (3-10 times as fast).

Working hard

Bar-Tal also said, "In contrast to landline networks, mobile is affected by the behavior of organizations, such as local authorities and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The 3G model is over, and it is not possible to obtain a 4G network without a new model. The intention is to require the rapid deployment of small antennas both inside and outside buildings."

Bar-Tal is correct in principle, but there are some mistakes in his remarks. First, ministries do put obstacles in way of the deployment of cellular antennas, and there is room to change this so that Israel's telecommunications infrastructures will be more modern. But this explanation is inadequate, and we would expect the Ministry of Communications to know how to lead an unpopular measure to comprehensively deal with the subject.

Second, it is incorrect that current antennas are unsuitable for the deployment of a 4G network. Deploying LTE over current sites (without the need for new planning and building permits) will offer all the advantages we've already cited. Small antennas can add value, but they are not a condition, and in any case, the same ministries do not allow carriers to deploy them.

Bar-Tal concluded by saying that the Ministry of Communications' tenders committee was working hard on the 4G frequencies tender, and that he expected it to be published within months. He added, however, "Without changing the fiber optic infrastructure and networks in cities, it will not be possible to launch the 4G network, and it will not have the performance that we're aiming for."

Bar-Tal said that a properly built integrated infrastructure was the basis for all expectations. "If the landline infrastructure lags behind the mobile infrastructure, it won't be possible to expect the optimal transmission of data. Without fiber optics and small antennas, cellular sites will have to share some of their capability." He added, "The infrastructure aspect is critical, and it will bring the next generation to the country, but many players from outside the communications industry are involved and they have a strong influence."

This statement is also partly correct. Obviously, it is better if every site is connected to a fiber optic cable, but hundreds of sites across the country are already connected to Ethernet (a data communications technology). The current landline infrastructure already available to carriers can provide all the values of 4G now, as it is not true that there is no point in doing it now. There is no doubt that there will be future developments which will allow additional improvements, but this does not justify waiting.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on November 5, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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