GSMA urges deeds not words, on government action over 5G

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5G will fail if operators are not given access to affordable, harmonised spectrum and a generous government approach to support telco investment, the GSMA has claimed.

The past 12 months have seen an increasing degree of concern about whether plans to keep 5G on track for a fully commercialised launch by 2020 can be realised.

This year's 5G World was one such forum that raised issues over telcos racing ahead with pre-standardised deployments across a range of different spectrum bands.

[Read more: Industry raises questions about "broken" spectrum model in move towards 5G]

To coincide with a 5G spectrum position paper that was published today, which marks the industry body's first intervention in the debate for some months amid the wider industry clamour, the GSMA made several identifications that it said was crucial for 5G services to deliver to the much-hyped expectations.

Firstly, governments must work together to ensure they can all deliver large amounts of spectrum across harmonised bands. Without this, it argued, operators will be unable to deliver a much-needed boost to speeds and coverage, especially in urban areas.

Governments also needed to do more to encourage long-term investment in 5G networks, with a "very large number" of small cells necessary to power them. It said: "The speed of rollouts, quality of service and coverage levels will all be compromised without government encouragement. Governments need to review and take appropriate action on policy measures at a national level to future-proof networks to accommodate 5G."

Finally, it looked ahead to WRC-19, which will divvy out the 5G bands. It said if governments fail to agree on a common set of spectrum bands, the ecosystem could become fractured and drive up costs of deployment and access.

This final point is the concern of many operators, who were not convinced by recent moves from the European Commission to grow the continent's mobile ecosystem. In September, a Vodafone executive criticised the Commission, accusing it of falling short of promising full harmonisation of spectrum for 5G.

John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA [pictured], said today (14 November): “Although the mobile industry, academic institutions and international standards-making bodies are developing the technologies central to 5G, success will depend heavily on affordable access to the necessary amount of spectrum.

“It is essential that sufficient new mobile spectrum is made available – and that operators are allowed to repurpose existing spectrum for 5G when required. Governments are central to the WRC-19 process to identify harmonised spectrum for 5G and incentivise the necessary network investment.”

The GSMA paper also identified three bands in which spectrum must be allocated for 5G services. Sub-1GHz will provide widespread coverage and underpin the Internet of Things. The 1-6GHz band will balance coverage and capacity, with 3.3GHz to 3.8GHz singled out by GSMA as a band expected to power many initial 5G services. Finally >6GHz will deliver ultra-high speeds, especially in bands of above 24GHz.