GSMA vision for more mobile spectrum in advance of WRC 23 this November

The GSMA, which represents the worldwide mobile communications industry, says their mission is to ensure mobile operators have timely and affordable access to appropriate spectrum. Without it, mobile operators can’t meet the growing demand for high-speed, mobile broadband services with good coverage in all parts of the world.

Mobile spectrum is a critical national resource for countries worldwide, playing a central role as an enabler of socio-economic development, social mobility, and the fight against climate change. Future allocations of spectrum at national level are guided by decisions made at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)’s quadrennial WRC conference. At WRC 23 (November 2023) decisions will be made to guide national allocations of spectrum.

However, it should be noted that with respect to 5G frequencies, WRC 19 was a failure: WRC-19 requested ITU-R WP 5D to complete the IMT frequency arrangements (revision 6 of ITU-R M.1036 recommendation) for the new mmW frequencies it authorized for 5G. That has not happened yet!  In other words, there is NO STANDARD for IMT frequency arrangements!

Today GSMA released two reports discussing future spectrum allocation and its economic implications.  The speed and quality of mobile services are directly linked to spectrum, and decisions taken at WRC-23 have the potential to deliver affordable 5G across the world.

The GSMA’s vision ‘For the Benefit of Billions’ explains how governments and regulators can use WRC-23 to develop thriving and competitive communications markets and help to ensure that no one is left behind in a digital age, concluding that:

  • Increasing capacity for mobile at WRC-23 will lead to better services delivered from less costly, more sustainable networks.
  • Additional low-band spectrum can deliver broad and affordable connectivity, building bridges towards digital inclusion.
  • Mid-band expansion can drive city-wide 5G, transforming industries and delivering mobile services that are an asset to their countries, ensuring their industrial agility in the global marketplace.

Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, said: “WRC-23 is a critical inflection point for every government, every business and every person worldwide that use mobile communications. More than five billion people rely on mobile every day, and the evidence is clear: increasing mobile capacity will deliver the maximum socio-economic benefit for billions worldwide, and provide the biggest boost to national economies. Future growth, future jobs and future innovation all depend on policymakers making choices at WRC-23 that give 5G the room to grow and allow it to play a transformational role across all sectors of our societies and economies.”

The GSMA’s vision paper is accompanied by the association’s latest report: The ‘Socio-Economic Benefits of 5G: The importance of low-band spectrum’. This examines how low-band spectrum is a driver of digital equality, reducing the gap between urban and rural areas and delivering affordable connectivity. It concludes that:

  • Low-band 5G is expected to drive around $130 billion in economic value in 2030.
  • Half of the impact will come from massive IoT (mIoT). Many existing and future IoT use cases require wide area coverage, in addition to population coverage, which low-band spectrum is best suited to provide.
  • MIoT applications are set to play an important role in digital transformation across a range of economic sectors, including manufacturing, transport, smart cities and agriculture.
  • The rest of the economic impact will be driven by enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA), as low bands will play a critical role in delivering high-speed broadband connectivity in areas underserved by fixed networks.
  • Without sufficient low-band spectrum, the digital divide is likely to widen, and those living in rural areas will be excluded from the latest digital technologies.

The latest report complements the GSMA’s assessments of the socio-economic benefits of high-bandmid-band and low-band spectrum.

In summary, the GSMA says that freeing up more spectrum will have the duel benefits of letting 5G realize its potential and that there are socio-economic consequences for those not already well connected if this isn’t done.

Note on 5G Deployments:

At the end of 2022, there were already 252 commercial 5G networks in 86 countries around the world, serving more than 1 billion 5G connections. By 2030, more than 5 billion 5G connections are forecast worldwide, driving almost $1 trillion in GDP growth. While 5G is forecast to reach maturity by 2030 in North America, Europe, China and the GCC countries, it will continue to grow in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) well into the 2030’s.