The demand for wireless broadband access has carriers and operators around the world readying themselves for a very busy 2014. But not all service providers are created equal. As consumers gobble up mobile broadband, particularly as mobile video consumption grows, demand will need to be met — and carriers need to be ready, whatever that may mean in their local context.
The U.K.’s telecom regulator, Ofcom, will host an auction of cell spectrum to be divvied up amongst the seven top carriers in the country. The GSM Association anticipates millions of new cell service subscriptions to occur in the next few years, particularly in rural areas. Telkom Indonesia is planning a build-out of its network that includes 100,000 Wi-Fi access points. And in the United States, 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks appear to pop up in new markets almost every week.
But methods of creating total mobile access vary from region to region. European regulators and telcom operators struggle to determine if consolidation of networks is the best approach to mobile growth. Verizon sees 4G LTE as ‘the wireless standard’, while carriers in developing nations are focused on expanding basic cell connectivity (often with the aid of green tech). Indeed, the GSMA revealed in late December that only 26% of India’s population is actually wirelessly connected – which moots any argument over standards for a considerable chunk of potential global users.
All the same, building out wireless spectrum is no longer a choice for industry players, though questions about standards and methods remain unresolved. As Prashant Gokarn, the chief strategy and planning officer of Indosat told Reuters, “The barrier to entry is no longer the device, but the availability of the network.”