The 3.5 GHz range and the future of 5G in Latin America

How can governments and regulators across Latin American help start unlock the full potential 5G? Our latest report offers an in-depth analysis of the 3.5 GHz range in LATAM; what the current situation is, how to overcome all challenges, and what should happen next.

When done right, 5G drives revolutionary new applications across many sectors around the world. Areas such as industrial automation, health care, intelligent transport systems, and virtual reality can all help improve environmental and economic prosperity in all parts of Latin America. The first generation of commercial 5G networks show what great potential the technology has.

However, without timely access to affordable mid-band spectrum, mobile operators are unable to deliver on this vision. The 3.5 GHz range (which includes the 3.3-3.8 GHz range) is already used in a majority of commercial 5G networks worldwide and has the largest ecosystem of devices. This makes it the closest we have to a globally harmonised band. Unlocking the use of the range is, therefore, key to the future of 5G success.

The “5G and the 3.3-3.8 GHz Range in Latin America” report takes an in-depth look at Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

The purpose of the report is to develop an analysis of usage and current status and potential demand of the range in Latin America, in order to guide plans on the region’s public agenda. The countries are a representative sample of the region, taking into account country size in terms of population and economy, 4G market development and 5G initiatives. That being said, the licensing guidelines proposed hold true for the rest of the region.

The need for a clear roadmap

The report makes a number of specific recommendations, but, most importantly, highlights the need for a clear roadmap for 5G and 80-100 MHz of contiguous spectrum per operator. The contiguous bandwidth is hugely important as it supports economies of scale, leading to lower network costs and device affordability and availability – which will ultimately benefit the consumer.

To get the best possible use of the range, the report also looks at current occupants – and the next steps to address the availability of the band for 5G. It should be noted that the mobile industry has long history of working alongside existing technologies in ways that prioritise societal benefits, and is willing and able to do so again.

Planning for the range has started and it is expected to power commercial networks in 2021, but challenges still need to be overcome in some markets. To help, the report also offers a wealth of licensing guidelines for spectrum planning as well as spectrum awards and licensing. In addition to the importance of roadmaps and the amount of spectrum needed, they include:

  • Prioritise improved mobile broadband connectivity to achieve socio-economic benefits above revenue maximisation;
  • Follow international best practices, band plans and trends;
  • Provide clarity in terms of coexistence, synchronisation agreements and cross-border interference;
  • Assign spectrum with technology neutrality; and
  • Grant longer licensing periods (ideally 20 years or longer), with the presumption of renewal, to provide long term certainty for network investment.

The “5G and the 3.3-3.8 GHz Range in Latin America” report is available to download now. You can find it here in English and a Spanish version is available here. This blog post is also available in Spanish here. To learn more about 5G spectrum, I recommend you visit our 5G Spectrum Guide.