GSMA urges governments to secure mobile internet future


Warns of spectrum allocation urgent need now, or face capacity crunch going forward

The GSMA marked the start of the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) by calling on governments across the world to allocate the spectrum required to drive continued global growth of mobile broadband.

Worldwide demand for mobile data is growing exponentially. According to Cisco, global mobile data traffic will grow 10-fold from 2014 to 20191. As data traffic surges, networks will face a capacity crunch and spectrum is a critical element for ensuring continued high quality mobile communication, stated the GSMA.

Commented Alex Sinclair, acting director general and CTO, GSMA: “WRC-15 represents a turning point for the future of mobile. Governments have a unique opportunity to ensure we have the spectrum necessary to drive digital inclusion and foster a robust mobile economy over the coming decade. The time to act is now. As it can take up to 10 years from international identification of spectrum to network deployment, decisions made at WRC-15 will determine the availability of affordable, ubiquitous, high-speed mobile broadband services for years to come.”

The mobile industry is already making a profound contribution to economic growth and employment worldwide, the GSMA claimed. In 2014 alone, mobile contributed $3 trillion to the world’s economy, equivalent to 3.8% of global GDP. In the next five years, this is projected to increase to $3.9 trillion, or 4.2% of expected GDP, with the mobile industry supporting 28.7 million jobs [GSMA Mobile Economy 2015 report]. Future progress hinges on governments working with the mobile industry to provide a regulatory environment that encourages investment and innovation, the GSMA stated.

Jon Fredrik Baksaas, Chairman at the GSMA, added: “WRC-15 is undoubtedly a turning point for the future of mobile. Either we respond to the growth in data demand and establish the infrastructure for continued mobile growth or we risk a spectrum crunch that will threaten consumer choice and the global economy. The GSMA and our members urge governments around the world to capitalise on the unique opportunity presented by this month’s treaty negotiations, by allocating the spectrum necessary to promote future prosperity and further drive digital inclusion.”

Based on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates, GSMA operator members agree that 600MHz to 800MHz of additional spectrum needs to be identified globally for mobile broadband to meet projected consumer demand by 2020. The GSMA said it is critical that WRC-15 identify several new globally harmonised bands, ensuring a good mix of coverage and capacity characteristics and driving down prices through economies of scale. At the treaty negotiations hosted by the ITU, each country has a role to play by identifying additional globally harmonised spectrum to support next generation mobile services.

Julio Linares López, vice president at Telefónica, noted: “We believe strongly in the role of the mobile economy in creating jobs, wealth and opportunities all over the world. However, the future success of the mobile economy hinges on the supply of spectrum. As governments from around the world meet to agree on changes to international spectrum allocations at WRC-15 this month, we urge them to call for significantly more spectrum for mobile to promote the future prosperity of their countries and enhance the lives of their citizens.”

The GSMA is pleased that WRC-15 is expected to move the 700MHz band from a regional to a globally harmonised band as ITU Region 1 (Europe, Middle East and Africa) appears set to agree to identify this band, alongside the existing identification in the Americas and Asia Pacific.

There is also nearly unanimous consensus for new globally harmonised spectrum for mobile in the L-band, starting at 1427MHz, as well as growing momentum for allocating a portion of the C-band, starting at 3.4GHz. The GSMA continues to call for increased support for a mobile allocation in the sub-700MHz UHF band, which already has strong support from a number of large markets in North and South America and the Middle East. Historically used for terrestrial TV broadcasting, this band could be freed up for mobile services and has excellent geographic coverage capabilities to meet increasing mobile data demand, especially for rural communities.

At WRC-15, governments will balance the spectrum needs of industries such as mobile, broadcast and satellite in the next ten years and beyond. By supporting a co-primary mobile allocation in key spectrum bands, each country will have the flexibility to determine how to allocate spectrum in the future, ensuring consumers can continue to choose how they access the services they want.

However, Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar, CEO at Etisalat Group, warned: “The consequence of failing to secure enough spectrum for IMT at this WRC will inevitably result in materially limiting the availability and affordability of high capacity mobile broadband services to consumers. Failure to identify sufficient spectrum for IMT now will result in an inability for the mobile industry to meet the infrastructure objectives of national broadband plans; it will lead to increased capital expenditure; not just in the cost of acquiring unnecessarily scarce spectrum resources but also due to the potential lack of lower frequency bands, more dense networks, and the need to maintain end user expectations of superior quality of service.”

While Johan Dennelind, president and CEO at TeliaSonera, commented: “The digitalisation of every corner of society is continuing to grow at a rapid rate and mobile technology is the driver of this revolution. As we have already seen over a number of years, mobile technology supports a huge range of benefits to society such as better access to healthcare, education, business and many others. I am confident that governments will recognise the vital role that making more spectrum available to the mobile ecosystem will play in supporting the future needs of society and essential growth for national economies. We want to continue to offer every citizen, wherever they may be, the opportunity to be a part of a digital society; this requires a forward looking approach from governments at WRC-15.”


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