Low-band spectrum can deliver digital equality for RCC at WRC-23

The Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications (RCC) is well connected today, with over 70% mobile penetration. By 2030, over 80% of subscribers will use 4G and 5G to access mobile internet services. The region’s highly educated population, extensive transport infrastructure, and large industrial capacity will increasingly rely on high-capacity mobile internet to deliver the next phase of economic growth. More people will require fast mobile capacity to access government services, healthcare, and education as 5G grows.

Mobile is used by over 5 billion people worldwide every day. It creates business opportunities, connects us with loved ones, provides healthcare and education, and allows us to enjoy many of the things that add meaning to our lives. The GSMA is made up of more than 1000 mobile operators and other businesses in the mobile ecosystem from every corner of the globe. Together, we share a vision that mobile services can be delivered to all people and industries, leaving no-one behind in the digital age.

The World Radiocommunication Conference this year (WRC-23), held under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), is an opportunity to support that vision and make sure that we build crucial development pillars to increase digital equality, widen harmonisation and provide a clear roadmap to address future spectrum capacity needs. In the case of mobile, the WRC plays an important role in harmonising spectrum using, in ITU terminology, an International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) identification. This international agreement creates vast economies of scale and device diversity.

RCC countries are well-advanced in their plans to deliver more mid-band spectrum at WRC-23 for the region’s urban populations. Access to the 6 GHz band (6.425-7.125 GHz) will ensure that urban capacity can be delivered as 5G grows over the next decade. Licensed 6 GHz will also play a critical role in delivering fast mobile networks with low latency and high security – both important for the future agility of industry and manufacturing.

The 3.5 GHz band (3.3-3.8 GHz) is the primary launch pad for 5G all over the world, with the most equipment and devices. Support for this band is important in the first phase of 5G and will be used for enhanced mobile broadband as well as IoT and industrial applications. RCC countries can join leading 5G countries in East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North America by supporting the 3.5 GHz band for IMT at WRC-23.

Supporting 5G across all the RCC region means looking at spectrum solutions which provide digital equality. Low-band spectrum discussed at WRC-23 (470-694 MHz) will support better quality services in rural areas and give more equitable access to connectivity outside cities. This will ensure the government services that 5G brings, the economic growth, access to jobs, education and health services, can be accessed by people throughout the region and not just those living in cities.

Spectrum in the ranges 470-694 MHz, 3.5 GHz and 6 GHz, with that vital IMT identification at WRC-23, can deliver a vision of equitable connectivity throughout the RCC region. It can make fast, sustainable, and affordable networks available to more people.

Through WRC, mobile can connect more people while driving scale and further investment. It can allow us to transform industries and deliver services that are an asset to our countries, ensuring we remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Together, we can deliver affordable 5G across the continent and help ensure no-one is left behind in a digital age. In doing so, WRC-23 can make decisions for the benefit of billions.

To achieve this vision, we urge the countries of the region to consider the following actions at WRC-23:

  1. Adding a primary mobile allocation in the band 470-694 MHz, allowing those countries that wish to do so to identify the band, or parts of it, for IMT
  2. Identifying the band 3.3-3.8 GHz for IMT
  3. Identifying the 6 GHz band (6.425-7.125 GHz) for IMT