GSMA calls for Sub-700MHZ spectrum to be urgently allocated for mobile use in Latin America

Sebastian Cabello, Head of Latin America, GSMA

Demand for mobile data in Latin America has grown so fast we’re facing a shortage of spectrum across the region. Use of mobile data is exploding. According to Cisco, mobile data traffic will grow at a CAGR of 59 per cent in the region between 2014 and 2019. GSMA Intelligence predicts that there will be 956 million mobile connections in Latin America by 2020, with 80 per cent being 3G and 4G connections.

Without an increase in spectrum allocation for mobile, networks will not have the capacity to meet escalating data usage demands of consumers and businesses. A spectrum shortfall would put Latin America’s burgeoning mobile economy at risk and all the jobs, innovation and prosperity that come with it. The GSMA’s Mobile Economy Latin America 2014 finds that economic contribution of Latin America’s mobile industry is expected to continue to increase at a faster rate than the rest of the economy, reaching 4.5 per cent of GDP by 2020.

At the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) in November 2015, countries in the region have a unique opportunity to help secure the future of mobile broadband in the region. To achieve this, the GSMA urges governments and regulators to identify further primary allocations for mobile in the sub-700MHz band.

The sub-700MHz band is allocated to broadcast on a primary basis in Latin America and is critical to the digital TV transition taking place across the region. However, the band is not being fully utilised for live TV broadcast, meaning that space can be freed for use by mobile without impacting broadcast services.

Co-primary allocation will give each country the flexibility to make its own choice about how to allocate spectrum in the future to allow consumers to access content the way they want to. If mobile data continues to grow as predicted, national governments will importantly retain the option of reallocating more spectrum to mobile if required.

There are compelling socio-economic reasons. The sub-700MHz band extends 20 per cent further than 700MHz, making it ideal for increasing coverage for mobile broadband services, especially in rural areas. And a recent study indicates that use of the 470-698MHz band for mobile broadband services in Latin America could make a GDP contribution of up to US $49 billion and create more than 47,000 new jobs.

The next CITEL (Inter-American Telecommunication Commission) regional meeting to prepare for WRC-15 takes place in Ottawa, Canada, from 17-21 August. It is critical that every market capitalises on this platform to agree a common position at WRC-15 to increase the primary allocation of mobile in the sub-700MHz band.