5G at risk without sensible spectrum approach, warns GSMA

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5G's potential could be under threat without a sensible approach to spectrum, the GSMA has warned, as it advised operators will need a minimum of 100MHz in the 5G mid-bands and 1GHz in millimetre wave frequency in order to fully capitalise on the technology.

In its latest plea for a fairer spectrum policy, the trade body said with a year to go until WRC19, when global spectrum requirements will be locked, 5G could be at risk if the International Telecommunication Union makes the wrong decisions.

The GSMA said operators need access to 1GHz spectrum to deliver wide, high-speed coverage across urban and rural areas as well as IoT networks, 1-6GHz to give coverage and capacity for new services, and 6GHz and above for the likes of ultra-high speed connectivity.

It highlighted the need for harmonised spectrum within the 26GHz, 40GHz and 66-71GHz bands as key for low-cost devices, effective roaming and avoiding interference across borders.

Instead of reserving spectrum for specific verticals, governments should consider sharing options such as leasing, the association recommended.

[Read more: European CEOs make latest plea to EU for help making 5G a reality]

Auctions have already taken place in countries including Finland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, with more to be held next year.

The GSMA said the different spectrum policies of these auctions could already lead to dramatic differences between countries. However, it said early-adopter countries would be among the first to realise the "significant" benefits of 5G, including smart cities and factories, autonomous cars and financial growth.

Brett Tarnutzer, Head of Spectrum, GSMA, said: “Operators urgently need more spectrum to deliver the endless array of services that 5G will enable - our 5G future depends heavily on the decisions governments are making in the next year as we head into WRC-19.

“Without strong government support to allocate sufficient spectrum to next generation mobile services, it will be impossible to achieve the global scale that will make 5G affordable and accessible for everyone. There is a real opportunity for innovation from 5G, but this hinges on governments focusing on making enough spectrum available, not maximising auction revenues for short term gains.”