Hunt for spectrum underlines importance of 5G

April 14, 2016


5G networks promise plenty of great new features, but one of the critical issues in making the next-generation technology a high-speed reality is the need for more spectrum. This was underlined recently at Mobile World Congress 2016 – when polled, thirty-seven per cent of the audience at a seminar on the topic said that 5G won’t be possible without much more mobile broadband spectrum. Another fifty-six per cent said that the technology will need some new bands to fulfil its potential.

The societal and economic impact of mobile networks has been proved over and over again. The performance improvement 5G promises has the potential to make way for even bigger changes. For governments that want to seen as being at the forefront of 5G development, the next generation of mobile network, securing spectrum should be as important as backing the development of the technology itself.

Spectrum above 24 GHz is likely to get a lot of the attention in the next couple of years. The decision to identify high-frequency bands for 5G mobile services at the WRC-19 meeting is a critical step on a journey that, if done right, could change the face of mobile services. The characteristics of spectrum above 24 GHz, high speeds but small cell sizes, means that making use of this rich resource will be challenging , but one the telecom industry is ready to take on. So even if it comes with lots of sleepless nights, WRC-19 couldn’t come soon enough.

But making 5G a reality isn’t just about exploring new exotic millimetre wave bands. The first step of what will make the technology a reality is effectively using spectrum bands that have already been identified. A good example is the globally harmonised C-band (3.4-3.6GHz). Ensuring that bands such as this one are in the hands of operators under fair terms would be a big step in the right direction for governments that want to be seen as being on the forefront of 5G development.

There is little time to hesitate. One thing that was clear at Mobile World Congress was that the development of 5G isn’t sputtering along, it is rapidly accelerating and regulators have to act now enable this new generation of technology.

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