Urgent Action Needed to Allocate Spectrum for Mobile or Risk Capacity Crunch

Geneva: The GSMA marked the start of the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) by calling on governments across the world to allocate the spectrum required to drive continued global growth of mobile broadband. At the treaty negotiations hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), each country has a role to play by identifying additional globally harmonised spectrum to support next generation mobile services.

Worldwide demand for mobile data is growing exponentially. According to Cisco, global mobile data traffic will grow 10-fold from 2014 to 20191. As data traffic surges, networks will face a capacity crunch and spectrum is a critical element for ensuring continued high quality mobile communication.

“WRC-15 represents a turning point for the future of mobile. Governments have a unique opportunity to ensure we have the spectrum necessary to drive digital inclusion and foster a robust mobile economy over the coming decade,” said Alex Sinclair, Acting Director General and Chief Technology Officer, GSMA. “The time to act is now. As it can take up to 10 years from international identification of spectrum to network deployment, decisions made at WRC-15 will determine the availability of affordable, ubiquitous, high-speed mobile broadband services for years to come.”

The mobile industry is already making a profound contribution to economic growth and employment worldwide. In 2014 alone, mobile contributed US$3 trillion to the world’s economy, equivalent to 3.8 per cent of global GDP. In the next five years, this is projected to increase to US$3.9 trillion, or 4.2 per cent of expected GDP, with the mobile industry supporting 28.7 million jobs2. Future progress hinges on governments working with the mobile industry to provide a regulatory environment that encourages investment and innovation.

Based on ITU estimates, GSMA operator members agree that 600-800MHz of additional spectrum needs to be identified globally for mobile broadband to meet projected consumer demand by 2020. It is critical that WRC-15 identify several new globally harmonised bands, ensuring a good mix of coverage and capacity characteristics and driving down prices through economies of scale. The GSMA is pleased that WRC-15 is expected to move the 700MHz band from a regional to a globally harmonised band as ITU Region 1 (Europe, Middle East and Africa) appears set to agree to identify this band, alongside the existing identification in the Americas and Asia Pacific.

There is also nearly unanimous consensus for new globally harmonised spectrum for mobile in the L-band, starting at 1427MHz, as well as growing momentum for allocating a portion of the C-band, starting at 3.4GHz. The GSMA continues to call for increased support for a mobile allocation in the sub-700MHz UHF band, which already has strong support from a number of large markets in North and South America and the Middle East. Historically used for terrestrial TV broadcasting, this band could be freed up for mobile services and has excellent geographic coverage capabilities to meet increasing mobile data demand, especially for rural communities.

At WRC-15, governments will balance the spectrum needs of industries such as mobile, broadcast and satellite in the next ten years and beyond. By supporting a co-primary mobile allocation in key spectrum bands, each country will have the flexibility to determine how to allocate spectrum in the future, ensuring consumers can continue to choose how they access the services they want.

Supporting comments from the mobile industry:

Ralph de la Vega, President and Chief Executive Officer, AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions: “The ITU finds itself at the center of one of the most exciting technology developments of our time. Mobile broadband has proven itself a highly effective platform for improving economic and societal inclusion worldwide.  As more people, industries and countries achieve their dreams with mobile services, more spectrum is essential to support this enabling mobile platform.  To secure the full potential of mobile broadband, the delegates at WRC-15 should assign more spectrum for the mobile industry.”

Jamaludin Ibrahim, President and Group Chief Executive Officer, Axiata Group Berhad: “We strongly support efforts by governments to identify further spectrum which are regionally and globally harmonised for mobile broadband. As one of the largest Asian telecommunications companies, Axiata has a single goal of Advancing Asia by piecing together the best in connectivity, technology and talent. We hope governments will work quickly in releasing additional spectrum to ensure the economic benefits coming from mobile broadband can be realised in the countries we operate in.”

Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar, Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat Group: "The consequence of failing to secure enough spectrum for IMT at this WRC will inevitably result in materially limiting the availability and affordability of high capacity mobile broadband services to consumers. Failure to identify sufficient spectrum for IMT now will result in an inability for the mobile industry to meet the infrastructure objectives of National Broadband Plans; it will lead to increased capital expenditure – not just in the cost of acquiring unnecessarily scarce spectrum resources but also due to the potential lack of lower frequency bands, more dense networks, and the need to maintain end-user expectations of superior quality of service.”

Jon Fredrik Baksaas, Chairman, GSMA: “WRC-15 is undoubtedly a turning point for the future of mobile. Either we respond to the growth in data demand and establish the infrastructure for continued mobile growth or we risk a spectrum crunch that will threaten consumer choice and the global economy. The GSMA and our members urge governments around the world to capitalise on the unique opportunity presented by this month’s treaty negotiations, by allocating the spectrum necessary to promote future prosperity and further drive digital inclusion.”

Dr Nasser Marafih, Group Chief Executive Officer, Ooredoo: “The social impact of mobile technology is unprecedented. The launch of the UN’s Global Goals recently highlighted this again; mobile technologies can make a direct and practical contribution – and will be essential – to achieving these ambitious goals. Ensuring access to additional spectrum is vital to our everyday work to connect the unconnected and respond to the needs of the underserved, fully leveraging the potential of mobile. It is also important to bear in mind that in supporting digital inclusion, demand for spectrum will continue to grow, rising in parallel with demand for data and online services.” 

Julio Linares López, Vice President, Telefónica: “We believe strongly in the role of the mobile economy in creating jobs, wealth and opportunities all over the world. However, the future success of the mobile economy hinges on the supply of spectrum. As governments from around the world meet to agree on changes to international spectrum allocations at WRC-15 this month, we urge them to call for significantly more spectrum for mobile to promote the future prosperity of their countries and enhance the lives of their citizens.”

Johan Dennelind, President and Chief Executive Officer, TeliaSonera: “The digitalisation of every corner of society is continuing to grow at a rapid rate and mobile technology is the driver of this revolution. As we have already seen over a number of years, mobile technology supports a huge range of benefits to society such as better access to healthcare, education, business and many others. I am confident that governments will recognise the vital role that making more spectrum available to the mobile ecosystem will play in supporting the future needs of society and essential growth for national economies. We want to continue to offer every citizen, wherever they may be, the opportunity to be a part of a digital society; this requires a forward looking approach from governments at WRC-15.”


Notes to Editors
1 Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Traffic Forecast Update, 2014-2019
2 Source: The Mobile Economy 2015

About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai and the Mobile 360 Series conferences.

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