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GSMA calls for global 5G agenda

As advanced preparations begin for the next World Radiocommunication Conference in 2019, the GSMA calls on governments to work together on a global spectrum plan for 5G

Governments need to collaborate and agree on releasing sufficient harmonised spectrum to deliver the optimum speeds for 5G mobile networking, the most affordable devices and international roaming without cross-border interference, according to the GSMA, the world mobile industry body.

As advanced preparation work begins for the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19), at which the agenda for the first fully-deployed 5G networks will likely be set, the GSMA talked up the benefits of 5G – such as supporting the needs of a more diverse set of connections and rapidly growing services such as on-demand video – and called for governments and regulators to commit to cooperation to ensure 5G networks are properly resourced.

“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,” said GSMA chief regulatory officer John Giusti.

“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.”

Because 5G services will require much more spectrum than their predecessors, many governments and regulators have already started to look at using significantly higher frequencies.

However, the GSMA said work also needed to be done to secure spectrum in the sub-1GHz spectrum band, to support widespread coverage and internet of things (IoT) services; the 1-6GHz range, which offers a good mix of coverage and capacity; and above 6GHz, which is best suited to delivering ultrafast mobile broadband speeds.

The association set out three steps it believes are key to help ensure 5G networks meet expectations.

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Firstly, it said, governments must start working together on a harmonised approach to spectrum as, if they do not make large amounts available, it may not even be possible to deliver the step change in mobile broadband speeds that 5G’s backers are claiming.

Secondly, it said, governments need to adopt national policy measures to encourage long-term investment in 5G. Roll-out will be more complex because of the much larger number of small cell sites that current thinking holds will be needed to deliver ultrafast mobile broadband, and may be compromised without government encouragement.

Finally, it said, governments and regulators alike held the key to enabling fast speeds, cheaper devices and easier roaming.

If a common approach to spectrum is not taken, it warned, 5G networks will be fragmented, devices will become more expensive due to the need to account for multiple standards and access to the benefits of 5G will be undermined.

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