GSMA: Expensive spectrum will impact 5G coverage and quality

(Image credit: Future)

The GSMA has once again warned that the full economic and societal potential of 5G could be jeopardised if the cost of spectrum is too high.

The industry body has published a report that it says demonstrates the link between  expensive spectrum and negative consumer outcomes. These include slow network rollout, reduced quality of service, and poor coverage.

The organisation has frequently urged regulators to focus on the indirect economic benefits of 5G technology rather than the direct revenues that can be generated by spectrum licences. After all, the more that operators have to pay, the less they can invest in networks.


The report says that in countries with the highest spectrum prices, the average 4G network would cover 7.5 per cent more of the population if airwaves had been sold at the median price. Availability is also an issue, with GSMA suggesting that even an additional 20MHz of bandwidth could boost average speeds by up to 2.5Mbps.

“Spectrum auctions can’t be viewed as cash cows anymore,” according to Brett Tarnutzer, Head of Spectrum, GSMA. “Any government that prices spectrum to maximise revenue now does so with full knowledge that its actions will have negative repercussions on citizens and the development of mobile services. We now have clear evidence that shows by restricting the financial ability of operators to invest in mobile networks millions of consumers are suffering.”

The GSMA’ is also increasing its lobbying efforts ahead of the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) later this year. The quadrennial WRC is organised by the UN-affiliated International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and sees frequencies allocated on a global scale with each country getting a vote.

The WRC is a crucial event for all industries that rely on wireless spectrum - not just mobile - as outcomes can have a long-lasting impact, especially since bands can take years to clear and repurpose.

The GSMA has written an open letter to national governments, expressing its concerns.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.