Five things governments need to consider about spectrum for 5G

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Telecommunications firms are working hard to prepare for the rollout of 5G services on their networks but around the world these companies face a hurdle not easily overcome – government and regulations.

In a statement this week the GSM Association – better known as GSMA – said that the success of 5G will rely largely on operators getting access to the correct spectrum.

“Variations in how much spectrum has been assigned, the onerous conditions imposed – and the cost of access to that spectrum – means the speed, reach and quality of 5G services could vary dramatically between countries,” says the GSMA.

And that variation could present a problem because not only could it lead to some features of 5G being inaccessible it will also dampen innovation.

“Without strong government support to allocate sufficient spectrum to next generation mobile services, it will be impossible to achieve the global scale that will make 5G affordable and accessible for everyone. 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,” said head of spectrum at GSMA, Brett Tarnutzer.

As such GSMA has outlined five key considerations for governments and regulators as they begin their 5G journey.

Minimum viable bands

For 5G to operate as intended it requires wider frequency bands. These wider bands allow for faster speeds and more traffic.

The GSMA suggests that regulators give each operator at least 80 – 100MHz of spectrum in “prime 5G bands” such as the 3.5GHz band and 1GHz per operator in millimeter wave bands (such as 24GHz and up).

This minimum band allocation should support the fastest 5G services according to the GSMA.

Know your spectrum

For 5G to be fully exploited it requires three key frequencies and governments and regulators ought to be aware of this says the GSMA.

For coverage in urban, suburban and rural areas operators will need sub-1GHz spectrum. This spectrum also helps support the Internet of Things.

For capacity and additional coverage the 1 – 6GHz spectrum is needed.

For ultra high-speed mobile broadband spectrum above 6GHz is required.

Spectrum availability breeds greater things

In addition to the spectrum needs outlined above, GSMA outlines additional spectrum needs.

“It is essential that governments support the 26 GHz, 40 GHz (37-43.5 GHz) and 66-71 GHz bands for mobile at WRC-19 [World Radiocommunication Conference 2019]. A sufficient amount of harmonised 5G spectrum in these bands is critical to enabling the fastest 5G speeds, low-cost devices and international roaming and to minimising cross-border interference,” writes the association.


While the temptation to capitalise on a new technology that operators are pleading for is strong, governments should not charge exorbitant prices for 5G spectrum.

Driving prices up would risk network investment and drive up the cost of services for the end user.

Sharing is caring

The GSMA says that regulators should avoid reserving spectrum for verticals in key mobile spectrum bands. Instead, the association suggests sharing approaches such as leasing would be a better option where some verticals require access to spectrum.

“Once spectrum is allocated to mobile at WRC, licensing that spectrum at a national level, as history has shown, can take up to 10 years. Therefore, it is essential that governments take the right action now,” concludes Tarnutzer.

[Source – GSMA][Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.