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GSMA says industry needs another 7 GHz of 5G spectrum

It’s hard to put a number on the exact quantity of spectrum telcos need in order to fully deliver on the promises of 5G, but it seems the GSMA has done exactly that.

7 GHz. That’s the amount per market, according to two new reports (available separately here and here) published by the industry group on Thursday. In terms of frequency bands, 5 GHz of that total needs to be millimetre-wave (mmWave). This is so telcos can provide enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) in dense urban environments, fibre-like fixed-wireless access (FWA), and enterprise 5G. The remaining 2 GHz per market needs to come in the form of mid-band spectrum, and will underpin smart city services, and enable the digitalisation of various sectors including health and education.

When it comes to low-band spectrum, the GSMA said there is not enough capacity in the world to meet the needs of 5G. Nonetheless, it said that making the 600 MHz band available for 5G promises to increase rural mobile broadband speeds by 30-50 percent.

“Spectrum is at the heart of modern digital economies but is a scarce resource. With careful, thoughtful allocation of spectrum, governments and regulators can develop thriving and competitive digital markets,” said Luciana Camargos, head of spectrum at the GSMA, in a statement. “The GSMA plays a central role in helping to inform these decisions, helping spectrum authorities capitalise on the true value of operators’ investment in 5G networks. Today we are presenting the mobile industry’s vision for 2030 for these stakeholders and giving clear insights into the priorities for spectrum in a 5G world.”

The GSMA has been doing this homework on behalf of its telco members ahead of next winter’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23). Hosted by the ITU, it represents an opportunity for various sectors of the economy to make a case for why they should be allocated specific chunks of spectrum. As we know, it’s a years-long process to re-allocate, auction and then use new spectrum, so the effects of whatever decisions are made at next year’s get-together probably won’t be felt until much later this decade. It’s therefore a clever tactic on the GSMA’s part to present its vision for what 5G can achieve by 2030, provided the industry has enough spectrum.

As keen as the GSMA is for telcos to have access to as much spectrum as possible, governments and regulators still need to tread carefully. As US operators have been finding out this year with their attempts to deploy 5G on the same C-band frequencies that are used by aircraft altimeters, things don’t always go according to plan.

 

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