With all the recent focus on the US 700MHz auctions, and the ongoing 2.5/2.6GHz band auctions, it is worth catching up with another less glamorous trend in spectrum (OK, I'll admit that radio frequencies aren't that glamorous to begin with, but you'll get the point).
According to the GSA there are now 3 active UMTS900 networks, and 7 capable devices. That's Elisa in both Finland and Estonia, and now also AIS in Thailand. Various other operators have announced intentions to roll out the technology, and there are ongoing consultations in many parts of Europe.
(The UK's is mired in dispute - unsurprising with 2 incumbent GSM900 licence holders and 3 more large 1800/2100 operators each hoping to get a slice. It's a bit of a nightmare for the industry to sort out.... and made even more complex because of T-Mobile's reported threatened legal action to delay the 2.6GHz auction until it's resolved).
Interestingly, some consulting work I did about a year ago basically suggested that most handset manufacturers and their silicon/RF suppliers thought that UMTS900 was an inevitable "done deal", while only few had progressed that far on UMTS2600/LTE2600.
UMTS900 is ideal for operators needing to meet 3G coverage obligations, and it should also get much better indoor penetration than 2.1GHz. Currently announced devices with UMTS900 support include Nokia 6121 and N96, the HTC Diamond and assorted others. Interestingly, it seems to be being supported in quite a lot of phones first rather than just modems/dongles - reflecting its suitability for coverage rather than capacity.
It will also be very interesting to see whether operators deploying UMTS900 are as aggressive on alternative options like WiFI dual-mode and femtocells for enhancing indoor coverage.
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