GSMA warns full potential of 5G will be wasted without licensed 6GHz

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Global mobile body the GSMA has warned that up to two fifths of the expected benefits of mid-band 5G could be squandered if regulators do not assign licenced 6GHz frequencies for operators.

5G will use a much greater variety of spectrum than previous generations of mobile technology, with regulators freeing up a mixture of low, mid, and high-band airwaves, offering a combination of range and capacity.

Mid-band spectrum is critical to many rollouts because it offers a compromise between the range of low-band frequencies with the capacity and indoor penetration characteristics of high-band.

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The GSMA says 6GHz is the largest remaining contiguous block of mid-band spectrum that can be licenced to operators in most markets, with huge potential for 5G.

However, spectrum is a finite resource and there are multiple industries competing for it. For example, Wi-Fi 6-enabled networks are powered by unlicensed 6GHz spectrum.

Contiguous spectrum, where channels are adjacent to each other, could reduce the need for network densification – speeding up deployment and reducing costs.  

Its report says 6GHz networks will drive more than $610 billion in economic value by 2030, producing two thirds of the socio-economic value that 5G promises to generate.

Ahead of the 2023 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-23), an event where frequencies are assigned at a global scale, the GSMA has called for regulators to assign between 700MHz and 1200MHz of 6GHz spectrum for mobile operators,

“6 GHz is crucial for 5G expansion in many countries. Without it, operators will often struggle to meet the predicted average of 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum needed for 5G, impacting service quality,” Luciana Camargos, Head of Spectrum at the GSMA. “Countries may, in consequence, lose out on the full societal and economic benefits of investment in modern 5G networks.”

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.