5G Spectrum Guide

The GSMA’s 5G spectrum guide collects reports, analysis and policy positions of the mobile industry. This detailed analysis gives governments and regulators guidance on the capacity needs of mobile in low, mid- and high bands.

Global consumers are beginning to realise the potential of 5G as it matures across early adopter markets and launches throughout the world. The 5G launch band at 3.5 GHz has been used by the majority of networks for initial services but an increase in the harmonised spectrum available will be required to maintain growth in subscribers and speeds. Low, mid-, and high band spectrum are all required to support 5G use cases.

Low-band spectrum for coverage and capacity

Sub-1 GHz spectrum has strong propagation characteristics and is essential to build coverage in thinly populated areas and provide indoor coverage in built-up areas. Spectrum needs for 5G are higher than the amount of capacity that naturally exists below 1 GHz. However, download speeds in areas relying on low-band – typically rural areas – are directly impacted by the spectrum capacity available and ensuring the availability of the 600 MHz band will raise rural broadband speeds by 30-50%.

Vision 2030: Low-band Spectrum Needs
Socio-economic Benefits of Low-band 5G Spectrum
Low-Band Capacity at WRC-23

Mid-band spectrum for high-capacity city-wide 5G

Mid-band provides high-capacity city-wide 5G. It will play a core role in delivering applications which impact how we manufacture goods, deliver education, build smart cities, and communicate with each other. Mid-band 5G spectrum will deliver more than $610 billion in global GDP in 2030, accounting for almost 65% of the overall socio-economic value generated by 5G, according to research from GSMA Intelligence.

100 MHz of spectrum per operator is needed to launch 5G in the first place. All countries must plan to make 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum available by 2030 to provide the IMT-2020 requirements for 5G of 100 Mbps downlink.

Vision 2030: Mid-band Spectrum Needs
Socio-Economic Benefits of Mid-Band 5G Spectrum
An overview of the 6GHz IMT ecosystem
Focus on 6 GHz for 5G
3.5 GHz in the 5G Era

millimetre wave spectrum for ultra-high, gigabit speeds and low latencies

High-band spectrum or mmWave also has an important role to play. Pioneering ultra-high speeds and the lowest latencies depend on mmWave spectrum access. Gigabit speeds are being delivered today by mmWave in even the most densely populated hotspots. This allows applications such as high-res home streaming through mmWave FWA and in public spaces through mmWave eMBB. AR/VR and the metaverse, automated manufacturing, and cloud-based and virtual desktops will all benefit from mmWave connectivity in dense user hotspots.

Governments and regulators should also plan to make an average of 5 GHz of high-band spectrum available per country by 2030 as demand increases.

Vision 2030: mmWave Spectrum Needs
Socio-Economic Benefits of mmWave 5G Spectrum

5G spectrum licensing

Licensing approaches will affect the impact of 5G on societies and economies and high 5G spectrum prices threaten affordable, high-quality mobile broadband services for 5G or other generations.

Robust licensing approaches which prioritise mobile broadband services above revenue maximisation are vital to delivering 5G for all businesses and consumers, creating digital inclusion and lowering the mobile usage gap.

Optimal auction design and licence conditions will help 5G flourish and allow it to have the greatest impact on economic growth. Artificial spectrum scarcity must be avoided and setting 5G spectrum aside for verticals in priority bands can jeopardise the success of public 5G services, raise prices and waste spectrum. Sharing approaches like leasing are better options where verticals require spectrum access.

Also, read more about the latest developments on the GSMA Spectrum Blog.

More reports

5G Spectrum Positions
Mobile Networks for Industry Verticals
5G TDD Synchronisation for 3.5 GHz
6 GHz Statement
The importance of 6 GHz for 5G’s future
Impacts of mmWave 5G
5G and the 3.5 GHz Range in Latin America
Roadmaps for Awarding 5G Spectrum in the MENA Region