5G needs lots of spectrum to deliver

Peng Zhao Speeches

Governments and regulators around the world are working to make spectrum available for exciting new 5G services. There is global agreement that more spectrum is required: without a sufficient amount, consumers won’t be able to realise the true 5G experience.

Which bands will become available, when they will become available, and how is still to be decided, and the next big step will be at the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference, WRC-19. ITU Telecom World 2018 provides an excellent opportunity to talk about this topic, and spectrum in general.

WRC-19 will take place from 28 October to 22 November 2019 and what happens there will have a major impact on the future of 5G.  Spectrum for mobile broadband in millimetre wave frequencies between 24.25 GHz and 86 GHz is on the agenda. The mobile industry has been working hard to complete sharing studies and pave the way for access to these important spectrum bands.

We know that wide blocks will be needed in the mmW bands for mobile operators to offer ultra-high speed 5G services that excite users and facilitate new services for businesses.

For WRC-19, the most important bands are 26 GHz, those around 40 GHz and 66-71 GHz.

Planning for the future is key. Adding an IMT identification for the whole 37-43.5 GHz range (which we call the “40 GHz” bands) at WRC-19 does two important things. First it creates the opportunity for individual countries to assign the portions of spectrum that work best for their specific situation.

Second, it facilitates equipment development across the broader range. This allows countries to do what is best for them and still enjoy the benefit of the economies of scale that come from equipment harmonisation across the broader range. This harmonisation ultimately benefits consumers – with more and lower-cost equipment being developed.

Fortunately, technical studies demonstrate that adding mobile in these bands is possible while still protecting incumbent users. Fair and open studies on spectrum sharing among industries benefits everyone, and we urge more of them as we make our way toward WRC-19.

National regulators have the challenge of needing to balance multiple needs. They are working with industry to make the spectrum identified at previous conferences available at the same time as planning for new spectrum identification at WRC-19 in higher bands. As challenging as it is, this work is extremely important because 5G will rely on low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum. The results are seen in trials around the world which are already showing 5G’s potential.

Gigabit speeds and low latencies are already opening the door for countless new and improved services, including high-speed broadband to homes and offices; industrial automation; and augmented and virtual reality. That regulators and governments are seizing the opportunity to make 5G the best it can be and making the right spectrum available under the best conditions is essential.

Of course, just identifying the bands available to mobile operators isn’t enough. Outside of the WRC, national regulators will have to make critical decisions about the amount of spectrum to assign, the technical conditions, the timing of the release and what access to it should cost. All these factors will have a major impact on the spectrum mobile operators will be able to make use of, and therefore on the quality of 5G services.

At ITU Telecom World, the GSMA will take part in two sessions on these topics: Spectrum challenges: preparing for WRC-19 and Spectrum pricing to drive the mobile broadband revolution. The GSMA also has a booth. Please make sure to visit and attend them – I promise it will be worth your time.

About the Author
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Peng Zhao

Peng leads the GSMA's global campaign to make spectrum available for mobile broadband under optimal conditions. Backed by a team of regional experts, he helps spread spectrum policy positions and licensing best practice around the world.