Effective spectrum pricing helps boost mobile services

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Effective spectrum pricing helps boost mobile services image

The GSMA’s spectrum team has along with GSMA Intelligence and NERA Economic Consulting done analysis that provides strong evidence to directly link spectrum prices with slow network rollouts, reduced network quality and poorer mobile coverage.

Two global reports along with deep dives in Latin America, Europe and developing countries all show the negative impacts.

The latest global one, titled ‘The Impact of Spectrum Prices on Consumers’ confirms that countries with poor spectrum policies – which either inflate spectrum or delay spectrum assignments – are leading to millions of people being left unable to access mobile broadband services or experiencing reduced network quality.

The report, conducted by GSMA Intelligence, is based the most detailed econometric study ever conducted into spectrum pricing as it considers more countries than previous studies, more consumer outcomes, and controls for a wider range of other potential explanations for these outcomes.

“Spectrum auctions can’t be viewed as cash cows anymore,” said Brett Tarnutzer, Head of Spectrum at the GSMA. “Any government that prices spectrum to maximise revenue now does so with full knowledge that its actions will have negative repercussions on citizens and the development of mobile services. We now have clear evidence that shows by restricting the financial ability of operators to invest in mobile networks millions of consumers are suffering.”

You can find all reports below, and also read about the latest developments on the GSMA Spectrum Blog.

The policy positions

The issue of getting spectrum pricing right has never been more vital. Additional spectrum is central to expanding and upgrading mobile broadband speeds and coverage. To help provide guidance, the GSMA has developed ten positions on the importance of fair spectrum pricing.

The Policy Positions
Full Report

The global reports

The ‘Impact of Spectrum Prices on Consumers’ report links high prices to slow network rollouts, reduced network quality and poorer mobile coverage. And the ‘Effective Spectrum Pricing‘ report estimates that, due to the increased data prices, consumers lost out on economic benefits worth $250 billion across selected markets.

Impact of Spectrum Prices on Consumers Report & Summary


Developing countries

The report shows that consumers in these parts of the world are especially hard hit by high prices. It too identifies a link between high spectrum prices and poorer coverage, as well as more expensive and lower quality mobile broadband services. In the end, better spectrum pricing policies are needed in developing countries to improve the lives of the billions that remain unconnected.

Developing Countries
Full Report

Developing Countries

Latin America

This report takes a closer look at spectrum policies in Latin America. How they are impacting the delivery of mobile services to consumers and businesses in the region. Just like the others, the report underscores how decisions made by governments and regulators can have a negative impact on the quality and cost of mobile broadband services.

Latin America
Full Report

Latin America


The European report looks at the 28 EU member states plus Switzerland and Norway in more detail. As with the global study, the observation is that average spectrum prices have trended upwards. Again, there is a link between high prices and more expensive, lower quality mobile broadband services.

Europe Full Report

What next?

For countries that want to adopt spectrum policies that focus on setting the stage for the best possible mobile services, the first steps are to:

1. Set modest reserve prices and annual fees and rely on the market to set prices;

2. License spectrum as soon as it is needed as this helps avoid artificial spectrum scarcity;

3. Avoid measures that increase risks for operators (e.g. that put the value of their company in jeopardy); and

4. Publish long-term spectrum award plans that prioritise public welfare benefits over state revenues.

These points are further developed in the GSMA’s policy position paper on spectrum pricing. At the end of the day, the main goal of governments around the world should be to get the most out of its mobile spectrum resources. And that is not the highest possible prices.