Managing Spectrum

Managing Spectrum – Making the Most of a Valuable Resource

The GSMA’s mission is to ensure spectrum is managed in a fair, transparent and predictable way with minimal delay to maximise the benefits for all.

Mobile networks are the fastest and most affordable way of connecting people to voice and data services all over the world. Effective spectrum management is critical to support the investment required to further expand mobile access. It is needed to meet the rapid increase in demand particularly for data services and enhance the quality and coverage of services offered.

The basic tenants of a successful managing spectrum successfully are ensuring access to sufficient spectrum, providing predictability and avoiding costly restrictions.

When it comes to awarding spectrum, there is no single best approach. Whether an auction or another method (such as administrative assignment) is adopted, the implementation of the approach is important.

The primary goal in all spectrum awards should be to encourage efficient spectrum use and the significant investment necessary to provide high quality mobile services. High spectrum prices are associated with more expensive, lower quality mobile broadband services and irrecoverable losses in consumer welfare worth billions of dollars worldwide.

Research also shows that when prices are too high, operators are likely to invest less in their networks – which impacts the quality and reach of services. But when spectrum management is done over the long term, mobile operators can feel safe to make investments to improve coverage and speeds, it leads to massive benefits for the whole of society.

What is a spectrum license?

Spectrum licences for mobile telecommunications define the frequency band, geographic reach and duration of spectrum usage rights. They may also include conditions such as fees and charges, network coverage and roll-out requirements, and technical or service parameters. All of these parameters have a major effect on how mobile networks are rolled out. Spectrum should be made available in a fair, transparent and predictable way. If this is done over the long term, operators can feel safe to make investments, which, in turn, can lead to massive benefits for the whole of society.

Why is spectrum pricing important?

How regulators decide to price licensed spectrum bands has a big impact on the evolution of mobile services. It is essential that prices are not excessive in order to drive the necessary network investment to provide excellent service coverage and capacity. Reasonable spectrum prices also encourage participation in competitive auctions thus supporting a competitive marketplace. Regulators can help by setting reasonable auction reserves and annual spectrum fees, designing fair auctions and not artificially restricting supply.

Read more about the importance of spectrum pricing here.

How does harmonisation impact mobile services?

Spectrum harmonisation refers to the uniform allocation of radio frequency bands across entire regions — not just individual countries. Uniform allocation comes with many advantages; it minimises radio interference along borders, facilitates international roaming and reduces the cost of mobile devices. Without spectrum harmonisation it’s unlikely that mobile would have become the success it is today. But that doesn’t mean that the work is done. Governments still need to work together in preparation for WRC-19 to ensure additional spectrum is internationally harmonised.