WRC-23: A chance for Asia Pacific to drive 5G innovation

For the Asia-Pacific region, WRC-23 is an opportunity to help drive spectrum harmonisation and increase capacity. 

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 make life worth living. 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. 

The future of the 6 GHz band is one of the most important topics at the WRC – this band represents the future of mobile. While the WRC agenda discusses the entire 6425-7125 MHz band in only the EMEA region, it is clear there is worldwide interest and support for using this spectrum for licensed mobile. 6 GHz is the largest remaining single block of mid-band spectrum that can be assigned to IMT in the foreseeable future. If used for 5G, it can play a vital role in sustainable social, economic and industrial development. 

There has already been meaningful progress and decisions on the band’s future in APAC. Cambodia, China, Mongolia and Myanmar have formally expressed interest at recent meetings. China, in fact, has already announced the addition of the upper part of the band to IMT to the country’s table of frequency allocations, taking effect from 1 July 2023. This announcement is a significant driver of the commercial 6 GHz ecosystem. Other countries in the region of all sizes – from Singapore to India – are evaluating their options ahead of WRC. 

Following a potential identification at WRC, the outlook for the 6 GHz IMT ecosystem is robust and there are no technical barriers to developing and commercialising 6 GHz IMT solutions. Mobile operator tests worldwide are showing the band is a viable option for 5G expansion, with gigabit speeds and good coverage. 

Access to more low-band (470-694 MHz) and mid-band spectrum (with 3.5 GHz) are on the table at WRC-23 in EMEA and the Americas. The impact is indirect in APAC, but Asia-Pacific countries can support this opportunity to increase harmonisation. Global progress on mid- and low-band spectrum helps drive further harmonisation and scale which in turn, help deliver affordable and sustainable 5G services to more people. 

WRC can help mobile deliver connectivity to more people. It can allow us to transform industries and deliver services that are an asset to our countries, ensuring our industrial agility in the global marketplace.  We can use WRC to deliver affordable 5G across the continent and help ensure no-one is left behind in a digital age. In doing so, we will ensure that WRC-23 makes 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. Identifying the band 7.025-7.125 GHz for IMT and reviewing mechanisms to identify the wider band 6.425-7.025 GHz for IMT in ITU Region 3.
  2. Extending the identification of the band 4.8-4.99 GHz for IMT in all supportive countries. 
  3. Noting the IMT identifications and mobile allocations in other Regions, in bands including 470-694 MHz, 3.3-3.8 GHz and 6.425-7.125 GHz, to drive scale and ecosystem development.