The rollout of 5G will be at risk if operators do not get timely access to the right spectrum, industry body GSMA warned as it called on governments to strongly support the sector’s needs over the next year.

In a statement, the GSMA highlighted a growing need for governments, regulators and the industry to work together to deliver widespread coverage of the new technology, as the race to launch 5G services intensifies with one year to go until the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19).

The WRC conferences, held every three-to-four years, are used to review and possibly revise global spectrum regulations. The next event will be held during October 2019 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, with a strong focus expected on 5G suitable frequencies given many leading countries are gearing up to launch the technology over the next two years.

Key focuses
In its GSMA Public Policy Position on 5G Spectrum report, the GSMA highlighted several key considerations for governments and regulators including: the need for wider frequency bands to support higher speeds and increased traffic volumes; and the need for 5G spectrum to cover three key frequency ranges to deliver widespread coverage and support all use cases.

On the first point, the GSMA said regulators which make 80MHz to 100MHz of spectrum available per operator in prime 5G mid-bands (for example 3.5GHz) and around 1GHz per operator in mmWave bands “will support the very fastest 5G services”.

For rural, urban, suburban and IoT services, GSMA said sub-1GHz spectrum should be used to extend high-speed 5G mobile broadband coverage, while spectrum from 1GHz to 6GHz will offer a good mix of coverage and capacity for 5G. Spectrum above 6GHz can be used for services such as high-speed broadband.

At WRC-19, the GSMA added it was essential for governments to support the 26GHz, 40GHz (37GHz to43.5GHz) and 66GHz to 71GHz bands with a sufficient amount of harmonised 5G spectrum “critical to enabling the fastest 5G speeds, low-cost devices and international roaming, and minimising cross border interference”

Inflated spectrum prices
Finally, governments should avoid inflating 5G spectrum prices, and avoid setting aside spectrum for verticals in key bands where the Association said sharing approaches such as leasing “are better options where vertical industries require access to spectrum”.

Brett Tarnutzer, head of spectrum at the GSMA said operators urgently need more spectrum, with the future of 5G heavily dependent on the decisions governments “are making in the next year as we head into WRC-19”.

“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.”