Making the most of spectrum resources benefits everyone

How to best assign licenses for mobile spectrum can seem like a tricky business. But getting it right will lead to big benefits for both consumers and the economy. To help, the GSMA’s Spectrum team has published a report entitled “Best practice in mobile spectrum licensing”

Effective spectrum licensing is critical to support the investment required to further expand mobile access. Mobile operators have already connected 4.8 billion unique subscribers, and by 2020 another 800 million will added, opening the door for more people to use mobile internet services for the first time, get their first bank account and much more.

However, this won’t happen automatically. Mobile’s great potential will stand and fall with governments and regulators making the right decisions. That includes ensuring operators have access to sufficient spectrum in a timely manner; providing support for new network investments; and avoiding costly restrictions on spectrum use.

For example, when reserve prices (the minimum price tag) are set too high, spectrum risks remaining unused. And that means everyone loses.

One important thing to keep in mind is that there is no single best approach to assigning spectrum; approaches customised for specific market circumstances are instead needed.

What’s best for each country will depend on the licensing authority’s policy objectives, as well as market conditions such as how spectrum is currently used. Further, the competitiveness of the market and the risks to investment and service quality over the forthcoming period must be taken into account.

Regulators who want to make the most of new spectrum bands should consider the following key principles:

  • Predictable and timely spectrum licensing encourages long-term network investment
  • Spectrum licences should be technology- and service-neutral
  • Auctions can deliver strong social benefits if they are properly designed
  • Licence duration should be at least 20 years to incentivise network investment
  • A presumption of licence renewal encourages long-term network investment
  • High spectrum prices jeopardise the effective delivery of wireless services
  • Licence conditions should be used with caution
  • Competition can be supported by licensing as much spectrum as possible and limiting charges and other barriers to services
  • Voluntary spectrum trading should be encouraged to promote efficient spectrum use

Download the full report, “Best practice in mobile spectrum licensing”, here in English, French or Spanish.