A new Radio Spectrum Policy Programme for Europe

The EU has a very ambitious digital vision for the decade, including a target of full 5G by 2030. The important question is how do we deliver on that vision. There are several interrelated but equally important aspects for mobile investment, of which spectrum policy is one. The review of EU spectrum policy is a critical opportunity for reform and a necessary step forward to achieving the Digital Single Market, faster and exhaustive 5G deployment and fostering a more pro-investment and pro-innovation environment.

On 10 October, the GSMA convened key EU policy and industry decision-makers for its #GSMAConnected series event “A new Radio Spectrum Policy Programme for Europe” to discuss how the mobile industry and spectrum policy can help deliver the Digital Decade. Mieke de Regt, Counsellor for digital policy, telecoms & postal services at the Permanent Representation of Belgium to the EU, provided opening remarks. Among the key topics discussed were the financial pressure on the EU telecoms sector, how spectrum policy decisions affect investor appetite in the sector, the importance of business certainty in relation to licence duration, awards procedures, spectrum availability and pricing.

Key highlights from the event
  • Spectrum is a key enabler for the digital transition and a number of steps have already been taken in the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) and the Connectivity Toolbox to improve spectrum coordination. Further improvements to coordination and collaboration should be discussed in the context of any future legislative proposal.
  • The telecoms sector has massively underperformed over the last eight years. A comparison with the broader market performance in Europe shows a gap in all relevant metrics. Low returns on investment, long payback periods and market uncertainties reduce the attractiveness of the telecoms sector for investors.
  • A comparison with other developed regions (North America, developed Asia Pacific) also shows a gap, not only from the perspective of operators (ARPUs and take up), but also from the perspective of end users (download speeds).
  • Yearly expenditure on spectrum rights accounts on average for between 35% and 40% of capital expenditure. In addition, without sufficient spectrum operators would be required to densify to a point that is unsustainable operationally, financially and environmentally. Spectrum policy that addresses both of these aspects could help free up additional resources for network investment.
  • Improving business certainty through licence duration and straightforward and predictable renewal processes as well as consistent, fair, efficient and pro-investment spectrum award rules, would also help create a strong regulatory foundation upon which the mobile industry can build on.
  • In view of updating EU spectrum policy, issues such as business certainty, spectrum availability, awards procedures, spectrum pricing, the promotion of research in 6G, flexible use of spectrum and increasing needs for use cases such as automotive and climate related aspects should all be considered.
Download presentations
For more information consult our recent reports and other resources
  • European Spectrum Policy for the Digital Decade: Effective spectrum policy can both help strong and sustainable economic growth and ensure full 5G. This position paper considers the regulatory actions required, in order to make spectrum policy a lever for investment and growth.
  • The Impact of Spectrum Set-Asides on 5G: This report analyses the potential approaches available to regulators for spectrum set-asides. Through five country case studies it also demonstrates the wider impact of these approaches, especially on mobile markets.
  • The Socio-Economic Benefits of Mid-Band 5G Services: This analysis shows how the benefit of 5G to sectors such as healthcare, education, manufacturing, and public administration can enable a new wave of economic growth. It estimates, at global and regional levels, the socio-economic benefits that can be delivered through sufficient mid-band spectrum assignments.
  • Vision 2030: Low-Band Spectrum for 5G: Low-band spectrum is the cornerstone of digital equality and a driver of broad and affordable connectivity. This analysis examines why governments and regulators must take a fresh look at the need for additional sub-1 GHz spectrum to deliver 5G.
  • Vision 2030: Insights for Mid-band Spectrum Needs: Mid-band spectrum is especially important as it offers a good mixture of coverage and capacity for 5G. This report presents the GSMA’s vision for how much mid-band spectrum mobile operators will require between 2025 and 2030 and provides some options for operators to meet this demand.
  • Vision 2030: mmWave Spectrum Needs: Access to mmWave frequencies will allow the full potential of 5G to be realised: lightning-fast download speeds, huge capacity and the lowest latencies. This report looks at the estimated high-band spectrum needs in the 2025 -2030 time frame.
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