Vision 2030: Spectrum Needs for 5G

Mobile operator capacity requirements in low, mid- and high bands

The integration of 5G into the way we manufacture goods, deliver education, build smart cities, and communicate with each other demands spectrum capacity.

As part of our work to provide government and industry with a clear picture of the requirements of 5G, the GSMA has carried out analysis of the spectrum needs across low, mid- and high bands. This gives a vision of what is required by 2030, one which can be integrated into 5G spectrum roadmaps to help ensure timely availability of capacity to ensure that 5G can flourish.

Low, mid- and high bands’ distinct characteristics drive different spectrum needs:

  • While low band is constrained by physics, and demand always outstrips supply, adding 600 MHz will raise download speeds by 30-50% in rural areas.
  • 2 GHz of mid-band per market is required to provide city-wide capacity and meet the ITU’s requirements for IMT-2020.
  • 5 GHz of high-band spectrum per market will deliver pioneering ultra-fast speeds and the lowest latencies in high-capacity mmWave hotspots.

Low, mid- and high-band needs

Last year, we presented our vision for mid-band spectrum, and why countries will require an average of 2 GHz in this range by 2030. While mid-band spectrum will help realise a majority of 5G’s socio-economic benefits, more low- and high-band capacity is also needed.

In our report “Vision 2030: Low-Band Spectrum for 5G” we take a closer look at capacity below 1 GHz. Low band is the cornerstone of digital equality and a driver of broad and affordable connectivity. It is a crucial national asset that can build bridges towards digital inclusion. Today, low-band assignments vary, but a maximum of 2 x 95 MHz of paired mobile spectrum is found at 700 MHz–1 GHz. There is a direct link between spectrum availability and download speed and this capacity crunch is limiting 5G in areas – often rural communities – that need low band the most.

Current proposals for more low-band spectrum in the 600 MHz band will allow for between 2 x 35 and 2 x 40 MHz of additional low-band capacity. This can deliver an improvement in download speeds of 30-50% where low-band is the only spectrum available – an improvement that can ensure mobile’s economic and social benefits are felt in all communities.

Use of high-band mmWave spectrum is still in its infancy. “Vision 2030: mmWave Spectrum for 5G” takes a look at spectrum needs in the last of the three ranges. The findings of this report underline mmWave spectrum’s role in delivering the growth that consumer, enterprise and household data will demand leading to 2030.

mmWave complements low- and mid-band spectrum implementations in dense urban areas and can provide fibre-like connectivity through 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) technologies. It also helps ensure secure, reliable, low-latency networks in contexts such as manufacturing plants or high-density locations such as stadiums and travel hubs.

By 2030, an average of 5 GHz of mmWave spectrum per market will be needed to satisfy demand for different 5G use cases, including eMBB, FWA and enterprise networks. To deliver on this, bands such as 26 GHz, 28 GHz, and 40 GHz are needed.

The long-term success of 5G is not set in stone and the coming decade will decide the extent to which 5G can deliver on its promise. Spectrum is required to provide fast, affordable services. Governments and industry need to work together on this – through WRC-23 and in national processes – to ensure that 5G can power a new phase of economic growth. To find out more about future spectrum needs, please visit the GSMA’s 5G Spectrum Guide. Here you can download the new position paper, the two new reports, as well as a number of other resources.

Watch the launch webinar of our “Vision 2030: Spectrum Needs for 5G” study here.