GSMA Repeats Calls For More Mobile Spectrum Ahead Of WRC-15

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Acting director general of GSMA says mobile industry needs more bandwdith to help solve future problems

The acting director-general of the GSMA has used an appearance at the Huawei Global Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF) to reiterate the organisation’s desire to secure as much spectrum as possible for mobile broadband at this month’s World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-15).

Alex Sinclair said the WRC-15, organised by the UN-affiliated International Telecommunications Union (ITU) would impact the industry for the next 15 years. The event, which lasts for four weeks, will allocate frequencies on a global scale and each country gets a vote.

Greater harmonisation will reduce interference, allow for economies of scale in manufacturing, and allow services to work across international borders, he said.

Spectrum allocation

GSMA Huawei MBBF 2015 3The GSMA has been lobbying governments and regulators arguing that if the mobile industry does not get the spectrum it needs to support the anticipated growth in demand for 3G and 4G services before 2020, consumers and businesses could suffer.

Sinclair said there were a range of challenges facing mobile operators such as securirty, the rise of over the top (OTT) service providers and rapidly growing data demand, but said overcoming all of these issues required spectrum.

“If you talk about challenges in our industry, you have to talk about spectrum,” said Sinclair, adding he would be flying to Geneva for WRC-15 after his speech. “We have to tell governments this is about mobilising their economies.

“It’s about digital inclusion, ensuring everyone has access to information in the digital era.”

Specifically, the GSMA is targeting airwaves between 470MHz and 698MHz, L-band frequencies located between 1300 and 1518MHz, the 2.7 – 2.9GHz band and ‘C Band’ spectrum between 3.4GHz and 4.2GHz. Around 1000MHz of spectrum is currently allocated for mobile services, but the GSMA says another 600-800MHz needs to be allocated by the ITU.

However the mobile industry must compete with others, such as broadcast and satellite for this bandwidth, hence the need for negotiations.

“It goes to the wire on the last evening,” added Sinclair. “We’re reasonably confident.”


Regional differences will play a key role in how WRC-15 plays out. In Europe, there is broad support for 3.4-3.6GHz, but the continent is less keen on harmonising sub-700MHz whereas other regions are more eager. However the GSMA claimed to TechWeekEurope last month many countries will follow the lead of bigger ones and national stances could change as the conference “takes a life of its own.”

UK regulator Ofcom, which will represent the UK at the conference, published its positions last week, confirming it will largely support wider European notions on how bandwidth should be allocated.

Of the more high profile issues, Ofcom supports 694 – 790MHz, 1427-1518 MHz (L-band) and 3.4-3.8 GHz (C-band) being made available for mobile broadband. Like many of its European counterparts however, it opposes the use of 470-694MHz as these frequencies are used for digital terrestrial television (DTT) in many countries. The watchdog also supports proposals for 6GHz and above to be made available for 5G and suggests some 5GHz frequencies could be used for Wi-Fi.

However Ofcom too accepts compromises will have to be made to secure the best outcome for the UK.

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