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Mobile industry gears up for millimetre wave battle at Sharm el-Sheikh spectrum meeting

WRC-19 venue.jpg

The mobile industry is attacking the space industry over the use of millimetre wave frequencies for 5G, ahead of a four-week spectrum conference in five months.

The GSMA, which represents mobile operators and equipment vendors, says some people in the space industry are being protectionist because they have a prior claim to the spectrum.

“We can’t let misinformation and the overly protectionist attitudes of the space industry derail the 5G revolution,” says Brett Tarnutzer, the GSMA’s head of spectrum. “Over-stringent protection will limit the spectrum needed for 5G and have huge consequences for society. This could put the economic and innovation bonanza accompanying ultra-fast networks on hold for a generation.”

The arguments are being lined up for the four-week long World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19), which starts in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on 28 October.

The GSMA is saying that if the mobile industry had its hands on the millimetre spectrum it would help generate $565 billion worth of economic expansion from 5G. “This figure represents 2.9% of global GDP growth by 2034,” says the GSMA, which points to “a huge impact on developing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and Latin America”.

Millimetre wave – sometimes abbreviated to mmwave – is the term used for spectrum between 30GHz and 300GHz, with a wavelength between 1mm and 1cm. 

“This economically-critical spectrum and the 5G services it will enable are under threat due to a territorial dispute triggered by the space industry,” said the GSMA. “Some in the space industry are determined to limit mobile use of airwaves that 5G requires to reach its full potential. This protectionist attitude is ringing alarm bells throughout the mobile communications world,” it adds.

Tarnutzer said: “Over-stringent protection will limit the spectrum needed for 5G and have huge consequences for society. This could put the economic and innovation bonanza accompanying ultra-fast networks on hold for a generation.”

He added: “WRC-19 is a critical moment for administrations to secure mmWave spectrum for future use and guarantee delivery of 5G-enabled services in their countries.”

World radiocommunication conferences are held by the Internationalm Telcommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency, every three to four years. This year’s event is at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Conference Centre (pictured).