GSMA Study Finds IMT Ecosystem is Ready to Support Use of 6 GHz Spectrum For 5G

Recommends Regulators Allocate 700-1200 MHz of 6 GHz Spectrum to Licensed 5G

3rd August 2022, Singapore: The fast-developing 6 GHz IMT ecosystem is poised to play an important role in supporting 5G rollouts worldwide, a new report from the GSMA has revealed. However, whilst 6 GHz ecosystem developers are standing by to meet consumer demand, regulatory decisions at next year’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23), and subsequently by national regulators, will play a major role in its future success.

GSMA analysis indicates that regulators should aim to assign between 700 and 1200 MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band to licensed 5G use in order to maximise the benefits to society of scarce spectrum resources, and support operators in delivering the full capabilities of 5G network rollouts.

The GSMA 2022 6 GHz IMT Ecosystem report was issued as governments and regulators gathered at Mobile360 Asia Pacific in Singapore this week. The report discusses the development progress of 6 GHz IMT systems and the central role that 6 GHz will play in delivering successful 5G rollouts. It warns that allocating the full 6 GHz band to unlicensed use risks countries losing out on the full benefits of scarce spectrum resource, and damaging their ability to maximise the societal impact of governments’ and operators’ investments in 5G networks.

As shown in the GSMA’s recent Vision 2030: Insights for Mid-band Spectrum Needs report, 5G requires an average of 2 GHz mid-band spectrum per country to deliver the ITU’s IMT-2020 (5G) requirements[1] and realise the technology’s full potential. Reaching this figure is difficult without 6 GHz capacity. The increases in bandwidth and capacity that numerous 5G applications require mean that mid-band frequencies especially play an important role and allow capacity for city-wide coverage.

A recent study by GSMA Intelligence concludes that mid-band spectrum will drive an increase of more than $610 billion in global GDP in 2030, producing almost 65% of the overall socio-economic value generated by 5G[2]. This can only happen, however, if sufficient spectrum resources are assigned to mobile operators to provide the capacity and performance that is needed to support growing mobile data traffic and advanced 5G use cases. According to the analysis, up to 40% of the expected benefits of mid-band 5G could be lost if no additional mid-band spectrum is assigned to mobile services in the near future.

Luciana Camargos, Head of Spectrum at the GSMA, said: “6 GHz is crucial for 5G expansion in many countries. Without it, operators will often struggle to meet the predicted average of 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum needed for 5G, impacting service quality. Countries may, in consequence, lose out on the full societal and economic benefits of investment in modern 5G networks.”

6 GHz spectrum is the largest remaining contiguous block of mid-band spectrum that can be allocated to licensed mobile in most markets. Harmonisation of 6 GHz spectrum could therefore provide more bandwidth and improve network performance. At the same time, the broad contiguous channels offered by the 6 GHz range could reduce the need for network densification, helping governments to speed up access to 5G services.

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[1] Coleago Consulting, “Estimating the mid-band spectrum needs in the 2025-2030 time frame”, July 2021