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. Achieving this will also minimise environmental impact and lower consumer costs of 5G, according to a global study of 36 cities published by the GSMA.
The study shows that policymakers should license spectrum to mobile operators in harmonised bands, such as 3.5 GHz, 4.8 GHz and, 6 GHz to meet the ITU’s requirements by 2030. 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. The additional spectrum will lower the carbon footprint of networks by two-to-three times while enhancing the sustainable development of mobile connectivity, according to the GSMA study by Coleago Consulting.
This spectrum will also make 5G more affordable. 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.
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.
The World Radiocommunication Conference in 2023 is a crucial opportunity to align global policies for mid-band solutions for mobile. This spectrum will ensure mobile operators can deliver the ITU targets of 100 Mbps download speeds and 50 Mbps upload speeds to meet future needs of consumers and businesses.
Therefore, the GSMA asks that regulators:
Plan to 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.