GSMA requests regulator action to meet ITU targets

09 July 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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The GSMA has said the mobile industry will need an average of 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum this decade to meet the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) data speed requirements.

The calls followed a study by the mobile association conducted with Coleago Consulting.

The GSMA said without the additional spectrum, "it will be impossible to realise the full potential of 5G in some cases". As a result, it has published four requests for regulators around the world, asking they:

  • Make an average of 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum available in the 2025-2030 time frame to guarantee the IMT-2020 requirements for 5G;
  • Carefully consider 5G spectrum demands when 5G usage increases and advanced use cases will carry additional needs;
  • Base spectrum decisions on real-world factors including, population density and extent of fibre rollout; and
  • Support harmonised mid-band 5G spectrum (e.g., within the 3.5 GHz, 4.8 GHz and 6 GHz ranges) and facilitate technology upgrades in existing bands.

The study assessed 36 cities around the world and showed that policymakers should license spectrum to mobile operators in harmonised bands, such as 3.5 GHz, 4.8 GHz and, 6 GHz. Failure to do so could see the ITU miss its 2030 targets of 100 Mbps download speeds and 50 Mbps upload speeds, required to meet future needs of consumers and businesses.

The GSMA continued to say that in addition to improving services, achieving this will also minimise environmental impact and lower the cost of 5G.

On affordability total costs would be three- to five-times higher over a decade in cities where a deficit of 800-1000 MHz would increase the number of base stations needed and increase deployment costs in each city by $782 million to $5.8 billion.

The additional spectrum will lower the carbon footprint of networks "by two-to-three times", the GSMA said, while enhancing the sustainable development of mobile connectivity.

Without the additional spectrum, it will be impossible to realise the full potential of 5G in some cases. In others, the number of antennas and base stations needed will lead to higher carbon emissions and consumer prices.

Mid-band spectrum availability also will enhance Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). The study shows that with the additional 2 GHz, five-times more households will be covered with each base station, allowing affordable high-speed internet to reach beyond the fibre footprint at a fraction of the cost.

Concluding its statement, the GSMA said the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2023 is a crucial opportunity to align global policies for mid-band solutions for mobile.