GSMA warns of potential 5G benefits loss through lack of 6GHz wireless band allocation

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The fast-developing 6GHz IMT ecosystem is poised to play an important role in generating a hugely lucrative wireless internet and communications industry, but a report from global mobile trade association the GSMA warns that as enhanced broadband, internet of things (IoT) and data permeate every aspect of society, mobile networks, especially 5G infrastructures, will require spectrum plans that can fulfil the long-term vision of each country.

6GHz spectrum is the largest remaining contiguous block of mid-band spectrum that can be allocated to licensed mobile in most markets. The GSMA’s 2022 6GHz IMT ecosystem report was issued as governments and regulators gathered at Mobile360 Asia-Pacific in Singapore and comes as 6GHz ecosystem developers are standing by to meet consumer demand.

The report discussed the development progress of 6GHz IMT systems and the central role that 6GHz will play in delivering successful 5G roll-outs. It specifically warned that allocating the full 6GHz band to unlicensed use risked countries losing out on the full benefits of scarce spectrum resource, and damaging their ability to maximise the societal impact of governments’ and operators’ investments in 5G networks.

The GSMA believes harmonisation of 6GHz spectrum could therefore provide more bandwidth and improve network performance. At the same time, the broad contiguous channels offered by the 6GHz range could reduce the need for network densification, helping governments to speed up access to 5G services.

The association said its analysis indicated that regulators should aim to assign between 700MHz and 1200MHz of spectrum in the 6GHz band to licensed 5G use to maximise the benefits to society of scarce spectrum resources and support operators in delivering the full capabilities of 5G network roll-outs. Moreover, it cited its recent Vision 2030: Insights for mid-band spectrum needs report that 5G requires an average of 2GHz mid-band spectrum per country to deliver the IMT-2020 (5G) requirements as defined by the International Telecommunications Union and realise the technology’s full potential.

“6GHz is crucial for 5G expansion in many countries. Without it, operators will struggle to meet the predicted average of 2GHz of mid-band spectrum needed for 5G, impacting service quality. Countries may, in consequence, lose out on the full societal and economic benefits of investment in modern 5G networks”
Luciana Camargos, GSMA

The GSMA stated bluntly that reaching this figure would be difficult without 6GHz capacity. The increases in bandwidth and capacity that numerous 5G applications require mean that mid-band frequencies especially play an important role and allow capacity for city-wide coverage.

Furthermore, the GSMA referenced another of its research studies showing how mid-band spectrum could drive an increase of more than $610bn in global GDP in 2030, producing almost 65% of the overall socioeconomic value generated by 5G. Again, it warned that such benefits could only be realised if sufficient spectrum resources were assigned to mobile operators to provide the capacity and performance that is needed to support growing mobile data traffic and advanced 5G use cases.

According to the analysis, up to 40% of the expected benefits of mid-band 5G could be lost if no additional mid-band spectrum was assigned to mobile services in the near future.

“6GHz is crucial for 5G expansion in many countries. Without it, operators will struggle to meet the predicted average of 2GHz of mid-band spectrum needed for 5G, impacting service quality,” remarked Luciana Camargos, head of spectrum at the GSMA. “Countries may, in consequence, lose out on the full societal and economic benefits of investment in modern 5G networks.”



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