Governments have a great opportunity to take the lead on spectrum as 5G emerges

Spectrum fuels the mobile ecosystem. Enabling fair access allows networks to run. It creates the certainty necessary to drive investment in mobile networks, bringing to life the many benefits the mobile industry provides to society and economies.

In 2017, we saw many examples of good practice in spectrum assignment around the world.

In Costa Rica, SUTEL successfully auctioned critical 700 MHz “mobile coverage spectrum” at a reasonable price, allowing operators to improve the quality of the services. Saudi Arabia’s CITC prioritised network quality over short term government revenues when it extended a spectrum license. And in Myanmar, the assignment of 1800 MHz was a success due to the government consulting openly with stakeholders and licensing the spectrum according to its roadmap.

The common theme here is that more regulators and governments are seeing the potential of efficient and effective spectrum management. How this can drive long term investment in mobile rather than focusing on maximising short term revenue.

To deliver affordable, high quality mobile broadband services, operators are dependent on fair access to sufficient radio spectrum. This extends beyond the cost of buying spectrum and extends to any ongoing fees and taxes.

To help make the most of spectrum resources, governments and regulators must think beyond licensing and also implement supportive regulatory frameworks. A key ingredient here is adopting technology-neutral approaches to spectrum licensing. Rules that restrict the technologies operators can deploy slow the development and deployment of innovative new services.

In 2017, two GSMA position papers addressed emerging spectrum needs for two exciting new mobile applications — drones and connected cars. They describe how mobile networks can help make game-changers such as self-driving cars and deliveries via drones a reality, but they need spectrum and the right regulatory framework is in place first!

Across the globe, the GSMA’s spectrum team has continued to prepare for WRC-19, an event the GSMA WRC Series helps you better understand and get ready for. Recent additions to our library include a position paper on WRC-19 Agenda Item 1.13, the part of the conference that will have a major impact on spectrum for 5G networks and the kind of services they can offer.

But while a lot was accomplished last year, there are more challenges ahead.

As we accelerate the development of next generation networks, we cannot lose of sight of the value of harmonisation in driving down equipment and handset cost. The importance of the push for harmonised 5G spectrum can’t be understated. Simply put, securing spectrum for ultra-high-speed 5G is the chance of a lifetime for regulators and governments.

It is promising that regulators all over the world are planning for assigning bands including 3.5 GHz, 26 GHz and 28 GHz. Getting these and other spectrum bands in the hands of operators under the right conditions will require a lot of work, and we continue to support efforts around the globe.

While there is much focus on “upper bands”, the work to make more spectrum available below 1 GHz must also continue. The momentum gained by the licensing of the 600 MHz band in the U.S. incentive auction is an opportunity we can build on.

So, as we continue to improve connectivity and help get 5G off the ground, it is more important than ever to work together to identify and assign spectrum for mobile services on fair terms and in a timely manner.

Go here to find the GSMA’s 5G spectrum guide.