The GSMA Responds to RSPG Opinion on Spectrum Sharing
The Radio Spectrum Policy Programme is a mean to support key Union policy areas: the European Gigabit Society, the European Green Deal, New industrial strategy for Europe and Shaping Europe’s digital future.
It is therefore paramount for this document to address how all these initiatives will be enabled by policy including spectrum policies.
The European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) redefines the regulation of electronic communications in Europe. As a priority, Member states have to transpose the EECC into national law by 21 December 2020, two years after entry into force.
Mobile operators are partners to the governments in order to ensure good quality ICT infrastructure and are also trying to meet the demand from citizens for more data, speed, higher connectivity flexibility, home connection and an overall improved customer experience.
To achieve this, Member States and Mobile operators must work together to find the best solutions (right amount of spectrum, at the right time, with the right conditions and at the right price). The global success of mobile services has been built on a foundation of exclusively
licensed spectrum as it supports widespread services and the certainty needed for long-term heavy network investment and high-quality service.
Exclusive licences have provided the certainty of access to spectrum, a critical component of mobile networks, to support huge investments in high quality, wide area mobile networks worldwide. This exclusive licensing approach has been central to connecting well over 5 billion
people to mobile services worldwide. Mobile technologies continue to evolve to make the most efficient use of licensed spectrum to deliver better services to more people in more places.
Licence obligations and conditions should be designed to minimise the cost of covering nonprofitable areas and avoid distorting the award of spectrum. Regulators sometimes include obligations and conditions in spectrum licences to achieve certain objectives which in turn have
an impact on the market and the value of the licences.
Sharing is achievable in licence exempt bands where all users have equal rights with obligations not to interfere and no ability to claim against interference from legal users.
Spectrum sharing presents a complementary approach to exclusive licensing that, when well planned, could help gain access to more spectrum for future mobile services. It may enable access to spectrum where a band can’t be cleared from incumbent services to provide
nationwide licences. It can enable mobile access to additional bands in areas, and at times, when other services are not using them. While spectrum sharing holds potential, it cannot substitute the need for exclusively licensed mobile spectrum that allows for the deployment of nationwide, reliable networks.
Spectrum is a scarce and valuable resource, should be assigned and managed in a way that maximises social benefit. That means that there is not a single solution but, rather, there should be appropriate conditions that incentivise the building of reliable and capable national networks while at the same time considering low (opportunity) cost alternative that could facilitate access for alternative users.
In all cases, a need for access to a band should be demonstrated and supported by coexistence studies. These studies would, and then drive the need for spectrum sharing framework.
The outcome should ensure that the proposed band could provide sufficient spectrum in areas where mobile operators are seeing growing demand. Secondly, the sharing framework should be clear, easily understandable, and functional and tailored to the needs of the users (e.g. clear property rights, priority of access, rights and obligations, etc.).
The success of 5G is heavily reliant on Member States supporting timely access to the right amount and type of affordable spectrum, and under the right conditions. 5G spectrum awards have already begun and the variation in the amount of spectrum assigned, and the prices paid, means the potential of 5G services will vary significantly amongst countries.
Spectrum set-asides for verticals in pioneer 5G bands (e.g. 3.5 GHz & 26/28 GHz) limit the spectrum available for commercial and nation-wide 5G services while also creating artificial scarcity, which drives up the cost of spectrum and leads to lower network capabilities and higher
underlying mobile traffic costs for millions of consumers. Collectively, these factors lead to reduced 5G performance and potentially slower rollouts, worse coverage and possibly to higher consumer prices.
More widely there is also a risk that operators will start to limit long-term network investment in markets where there are signs mobile spectrum will be withheld from market-based awards and assigned directly to others as this introduces uncertainty.
Voluntarily sharing or leasing of spectrum on commercial terms to support faster services, improve coverage and drive innovation should be considered.