PARTNER FEATURE: The decision by the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) in Dubai in December to earmark the 6GHz band for mobile use across every International Telecommunications Union (ITU) region gives additional spectrum support for the development of 5G-Advanced and 6G networks worldwide.

The WRC-23 conference, held under the auspices of the ITU, identified 6GHz as the global IMT spectrum.

Following the meeting, the GSMA commented 6GHz spectrum is now the “harmonised home” for the expansion of mobile capacity for 5G-Advanced and beyond, noting 2GHz of mid-spectrum per market will be needed by 2030 to meet the increased demand by consumers and businesses around the world.

The group identified the 6GHz band as the sole remaining mid-band spectrum available to respond to data traffic growth in the 5G-Advanced era.

Analysts suggest the decision gives Europe an opportunity to develop and deploy a world-leading mobile communication network.

In a report, Vodafone stated the 6GHz band is a sustainable, cost-effective and energy-efficient way to meet future 5G outdoor and indoor capacity needs. 

Encouraging results
In a trial in Madrid, Vodafone engineers achieved download speeds of up to 5Gb/s – about double what today’s networks are capable of – and on average 2Gb/s rates across various indoor locations using a 200MHz channel (the anticipated amount of 6GHz spectrum that will be made available in each European country).

The indoor results are particularly important since around 75 per cent of all mobile traffic originates from users at home, in the office or in enclosed public places.

The 6GHz equipment was installed on an existing 5G site covering Vodafone’s campus and the surrounding area, and enabled higher speeds and capacity for evolved 5G networks. Massive MIMO antenna technology was used.

Vodafone also demonstrated the technology has the potential to achieve comparable coverage levels to today’s 5G networks. This highlights the band can be readily deployed on existing mobile sites cost effectively and efficiently, providing a capacity boost when current bandwidth becomes exhausted.

Its results show how the quality of mobile services across both indoor and outdoor areas can be improved with the allocation of new 6GHz spectrum, allowing the industry to future-proof the progress of new services and technologies as well as the demands they place on the mobile network, and supports the evolution to 5G-Advanced.

The operator declared allocating the 6GHz band for mobile will guarantee faster connectivity for businesses and public services, which will help avoid a network capacity crunch in the next five to ten years.

The company operates mobile networks in 20 markets worldwide, giving it a broad view of the industry’s future spectrum requirements, noting pressure to free up more spectrum is mounting with Vodafone seeing demand across Europe growing 30 per cent a year as more devices and services are connected to 5G infrastructure.

The identification and verification of the 6GHz spectrum is a major step in aiding Europe’s mission to position the region as a global leader in mobile communications.

While there is a growing focus on 6G, the technology is in the early development phase, with the first commercial networks not expected to be deployed until 2030. This means there is ample time for 5G networks to evolve to the next stage – 5G-Advanced is an enhanced version to existing deployments and a key milestone in the 5G-to-6G evolution. The technology will begin to be put into commercial use later this year, giving operators around the world a much-needed boost in capacity and speeds.

The WRC-23’s backing of the 6GHz band across the world is a significant win for the long-term prosperity of 5G and 5G-Advanced as the industry prepares for the move to 6G.