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Telecoms body calls for technology-neutral spectrum licensing

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For governments that want consumers and businesses to benefit from the best possible mobile broadband experience, support for technology neutral spectrum licensing is a must.

The Global System for Mobile telecommunications Association (GSMA), which made this call, said this is widely recognised as best practice when assigning spectrum to mobile operators.

GSMA noted that this enables 2G or 3G spectrum to be re-farmed for 4G as well as 5G, at a pace driven by market demand. It stressed that beyond mobile broadband, the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) market is also making the need to adopt neutral licences more urgent.

To get technology neutrality right, key considerations, according to GSMA, which represents the interest of over 800 mobile network operators and vendors across the globe, should include; attempts to extract additional revenue have misfired and held back the introduction of new mobile technologies; while a renewal process provides an opportunity to re-issue spectrum licences as neutral, regulators should not delay the introduction by waiting for the expiry dates of existing licences; when assigning new spectrum, regulators should do so in a technology-neutral manner or at the very least not restrict the introduction of next generation technologies, such as 5G.

GSMA informed that some countries in the region have not yet moved to technology-neutral spectrum licences and are still issuing technology-specific licences or have not decoupled spectrum licences from operating licences.

This, according to the body means consumers and businesses do not benefit from the best possible mobile broadband experience and can end up paying more for inferior services.

In this regard, GSMA said Senegal provides an example of where a technology-specific 4G licence has been issued. According to it, the 800MHz licence issued to Sonatel in 2016 has duration of 17 years and is technology specific to 4G. “It is highly likely that prior to the expiration of the 4G licence the operator will want to refarm at least one 2×5 MHz block of the 800 MHz to 5G. With 5G on the horizon, mobile operators elsewhere are taking advantage of specifications that allow 4G and 5G to operate in the same radio to deploy multi-mode radios capable of 4G and 5G with a software upgrade. Regulators that issue 4G spectrum licences are limiting the use of spectrum to what could be a legacy technology before the expiration of the licence.“If spectral efficiency is to be maximised, operators need to be free to deploy the latest technology.”

For example, using 4G (LTE) rather than 2G (GSM), operators can produce much higher levels of
throughput for the same cost (a lower cost per bit). This enables mobile operators to offer their customers large data bundles at the same cost.”


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