GSMA lobbies for more and cheaper spectrum

Ahead of WRC-19 mobile industry lobbying group the GSMA has lobbied on behalf of the mobile industry.

The main concern of the GSMA, and thus we can assume the global mobile industry, is access to plenty of licensed spectrum at reasonable prices. The ITU’s 19th World Radiocommunication Conference will take place in November, but lobbying groups are getting organised well ahead of time. While the cost and availability of spectrum is a perennial issue, the advent of 5G makes it arguably more important than ever.

The GSMA has opened two lobbying fronts in this case. The first involved an open letter loftily headed ‘Delivering the greatest value for society at WRC-19’. As indicated the letter conflates the progress of 5G with that of civilization itself and warns that any failure to heed the GSMA’s wishes could have dire societal consequences.

The second initiative took the form of a report that concludes ‘High spectrum prices leave millions unconnected’. Once more the fortunes of its members are intimately associated with the progress of mankind, as the GSMA opens its presentation of the award by saying ‘the negative impacts of high spectrum prices on consumers can no longer be disputed.’

“Spectrum auctions can’t be viewed as cash cows anymore,” said Brett Tarnutzer, Head of Spectrum at the GSMA. “Any government that prices spectrum to maximise revenue now does so with full knowledge that its actions will have negative repercussions on citizens and the development of mobile services. We now have clear evidence that shows by restricting the financial ability of operators to invest in mobile networks millions of consumers are suffering.”

The GSMA is in danger of laying it on too thick with these two attempts to pressure the powers that be into making it cheaper for its members to get hold of all-important spectrum. The negative impacts of doing otherwise can and will be disputed, while appeals to philanthropy are a bit rich coming from such an affluent and profitable industry.

Having said that there are many good arguments in favour of freeing up spectrum and not allowing them to be a public sector cash grab every few years. There’s no way it costs governments and regulators the amount of money they extort from operators in spectrum licenses to manage them and in its unsubtle way the GSMA seems to be saying that if you want to service your people, try being a bit more helpful about keeping them connected.

GSMA pushes the case for 26 GHz ahead of WRC-19

In an open-letter to representatives of 170 governments ahead of the ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference in November, the GSMA has pressed the case for 5G in the mmWave spectrum bands.

At the conference, taking place in Egypt, Government Ministers and executives of regulatory authorities will decide the fate of 5G in the 26, 40 and 66 GHz spectrum bands. These spectrum bands have been hotly-discussed for ultra-high capacity and ultra-high-speed services, though there have been discerning voices.

The criticism which has seemed to gain traction from some US politicians is from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which suggest 5G in the high frequency bands will impact the accuracy of weather forecasts.

“Identifying mmWave spectrum for mobile requires careful consideration. That is why the industry has been so actively involved at the ITU over the past four years of technical study of these frequencies,” the letter states.

“The methodical analysis undertaken by governments and industry through the ITU process has demonstrated that mobile can safely operate in these bands without causing harm to other spectrum-using services.”

The GSMA has also warned government agencies on taking the impact on weather forecasts too seriously, stating the officials should base their decisions on ‘sound science’. It seems to be a cheap shot, but as the conference draws closer, we suspect more vicious barbs will be thrown towards the spectrum rivals.

An interesting undertone to this is the impact to global harmonisation of spectrum. This has always been a concern of the GSMA, as it will impact the inner workings of the 5G ecosystem. A regionalised approach to the delivery of 5G is not a perfect outcome, especially when this generation of mobile technology was supposed to be a demonstration of collaboration.

That said, evidence of fragmentation is already exists.

In the US, the general approach to 5G delivery has been through the mmWave spectrum bands, though Europe is seemingly favouring the mid-band spectrum. The European approach does seem to be more effective for the moment, mid-band spectrum marries a palatable compromise between increased speeds and a tolerable range of coverage. US 5G enthusiasts might be able to get eye-watering speeds, though they will have to be stood very close to a base station.