5G is the next generation of improved wireless and mobile broadband technology, capable of reaching ultrafast speeds with low latency and high reliability. It will enable new experiences such as virtual reality and augmented reality, as well as mission-critical communications, a massive number of connected devices – Internet of Things (IoT) – and new future services that are at present unknown.
5G technology is a reality, and the first services using 5G New Radio (5G NR) will be available by the end of 2018 in the US. Regulatory authorities must have effective spectrum management policies and 5G spectrum allocation among their top priorities. The diverse set of services and applications enabled by 5G will require operators to have access to multilayer spectrum bands with different characteristics, including low bands, medium bands, and high bands above 6GHz, including mmWave.
Regulatory certainty about what spectrum bands will be available creates a platform for the necessary investment to bring innovative, affordable new products and services to consumers. Spectrum is an essential resource to ensure that countries have the necessary communications networks, which are the fundamental basis of economic development in the era of the digital economy.
Although there are strong efforts being made by the industry and international standards-making bodies to develop 5G, the speed, reach, and quality of effective 5G services will depend heavily on regulators supporting timely access to the right amount and type of internationally harmonized spectrum, and under the right conditions. Regulators working together with the industry is essential to drive a successful path toward 5G.
Spectrum allocation can take years, so continual planning by regulators is needed to ensure that a robust supply of radio spectrum is available for 5G advanced wireless technology development. Adhering to regionally and internationally recognized band plans is the only way to achieve large economies of scale to maintain lower costs. Additionally, combinations of licensed spectrum (exclusive), shared spectrum, and unlicensed spectrum will be used for the development of 5G.
Regulators must prepare a roadmap for spectrum availability for the short, medium, and long term, providing predictability for the necessary investments in networks.
There is race between the US and China for 5G technology, with both having already set aside spectrum for 5G. The EU has agreed that mobile operators will obtain exclusive access to the 700MHz band by June 30, 2020, with technical harmonization of the 3.6GHz band (for connected car corridors) and the 26GHz band (for enhanced, dense wireless broadband) ready for 2019. South Korea and Japan are making high-speed progress toward 5G. It is important that regulators follow this process in order to define the adoption plans that would have the largest economies of scale, ensuring low-cost devices and facilitating roaming.
For each country, not having the right amount of spectrum according to the evolution and size of the market and with a necessary balance of low and high bands would have a decisive impact on the deployment of next-generation networks, and on its competitiveness in the global economy.
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