3G operators have three ways in which they can increase the capacities of their existing 3G networks. These are:
- deploying a 3G enhancement (such as HSPA+ or LTE) with improved spectrum efficiency
- utilising a greater amount of 3G spectrum. A greater allocation of appropriate spectrum would allow 3G operators to deploy a greater number of transceivers at base stations, increasing capacity. With LTE, 3G operators could employ 20MHz of spectrum to maximise performance, because LTE is most spectrally efficient when using the maximum amount of spectrum possible (20MHz)
- increasing the total number of base stations (or more correctly, the total number of base station sectors) in the network.
Given that some 3G operators have spent many billions of dollars in constructing their 3G networks, consisting of many thousands of base stations, most would be unwilling to build a large number of additional base station sites. They would prefer, instead, to increase network capacity through improvements in spectrum efficiency first, and then use additional spectrum to increase the number of transceivers operating on those base station sectors where there is high traffic demand.