Spectrum policy: Making the most of a valuable resource

Governments and regulators can manage spectrum in a fair and transparent way to maximise societal benefits.

Policymakers and telecommunications regulators expand the benefits of mobile connectivity by maximising the benefits of spectrum use for society and ensuring the efficient use of scarce resource. Adhering to international standards and regulatory best practices can create an environment that fosters mobile service innovation, long-term commercial investment and healthy competition.

A successful spectrum policy ensures access to sufficient capacity, provides predictability and avoids costly restrictions.

Encouraging efficient use

Successful spectrum licensing requires long-term planning. All spectrum awards should ensure efficient spectrum use and encourage infrastructure investments. Mobile operators must be given clear conditions to deliver a safe investment environment, which will improve coverage and speeds.

Spectrum licensing

Spectrum licences for mobile telecommunications must be made in a fair, transparent and predictable way. They define the frequency band, geographic reach, and duration of spectrum usage rights, while they may include conditions such as fees, network coverage requirements or technical and service parameters. Spectrum licences must be designed to create a safe environment for operator investment so that MNOs deliver the speed and quality that will benefit society. Read more about best practice in spectrum licencing here.

Spectrum roadmaps

Mobile operators require predictable access to low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum. Providing this certainty helps encourage the long-term investments needed to meet growing demand and push innovation. This means regulators should publish, and regularly update, a spectrum roadmap for at least the next five years, detailing how much spectrum capacity will be made available, what bands will be used and when they will become available. Find out more about spectrum roadmaps in APACMENA and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Spectrum pricing

The evolution of mobile services is directly impacted by spectrum pricing. Fair pricing encourages network investment to provide service coverage and capacity, which will get more people connected. Correct spectrum pricing encourages participation in competitive auctions and supports a thriving marketplace. Regulators can help by setting reasonable auction reserves and annual spectrum fees, designing fair auctions and not artificially restricting supply. Read more about the importance of spectrum pricing here. Read more about the importance of spectrum pricing here.

Spectrum and the environment

Spectrum harmonisation refers to the uniform allocation of radio frequency bands across entire regions — not just individual countries. Uniform allocation comes with many advantages; it minimises radio interference along borders, facilitates international roaming and reduces the cost of mobile devices. Without spectrum harmonisation it’s unlikely that mobile would have become the success it is today. Read more about the impact of spectrum policy on carbon emissions here.

Spectrum set-asides

Industry verticals have increasingly requested harmonised IMT spectrum from regulators for applications other than public mobile networks. Dedicated spectrum set-aside risks spectrum fragmentation with potentially significant economic cost. Making spectrum available for industry users must be balanced against demand from others, including mobile operators who have increased spectrum needs as mobile data traffic grows. The benefits that regulators expect from private networks have to be carefully weighed against the cost resulting from potentially denying other users access to the same resources. Read more about the impact of spectrum set-asides on 5G here.