The capabilities of next generation of wireless networks will make possible massive new levels of connectivity, tremendous throughput speed and high reliability mobile communications. These capabilities will be met through the development of new air interfaces, new networking technologies as well as the evolution and enhancement of today’s technology. 5G is thus more than a gradual evolution of current mobile broadband: it is a trigger for deep social, business, and industrial transformation that will impact numerous vertical markets: automotive, energy, agriculture, city management, government, healthcare, manufacturing, public transportation, etc.
Technology developments to meet these capabilities will be deployed in the existing frequency bands identified for mobile communications but they will also require new spectrum resources to specifically provide high bandwidth resources that can efficiently deliver high throughput services.
The ITU-R considers the spectrum for public wireless networks (3G, 4G and now 5G) under the IMT framework. At the ITU-R World Radiocommunications Conference 2015 an Agenda Item for WRC-19 (AI 1.13) for studying 5G spectrum was agreed. A number of frequency bands between 24.25 GHz and 86 GHz will be studied until WRC19, where a decision on allocations for the Mobile Service and/or Identificationsfor IMT will be taken. In the study period between WRC-15 and WRC-19 the new spectrum needs for IMT will be analysed, as well as compatibility with other services.
In parallel, there are country and regional initiatives to specify new frequency bands for commercial use or test systems, such as the Rulemaking in the US, the activities towards the Olympic Games in Korea and Japan and the definition of pioneer bands in Europe. These initiatives are addressing higher frequency bands that will assist to meet the very high throughput capabilities of 5G networks, but also bands below 6 GHz that could provide a combination of high bitrates and good coverage. Some of the bands under consideration are not on the ITU-R list for WRC-19. In addition, there are test systems planned or already up and running in a number of locations and for various frequency bands in different countries.
Work in 3GPP is also progressing, and has indeed been accelerated to provide timely specifications for 5G New Radio (NR). In addition, vendors are already developing commercial equipment that will meet the requirements for early deployments in Europe and in other parts of the World.
Discussions have started in Europe regarding the appropriate licensing methods of 5G spectrum, e.g. in the context of public consultations in different countries and the second opinion on 5G spectrum from RSPG. Aspects such as harmonisation of licensing conditions, license duration, licensed vs license exempt etc. will greatly influence the willingness to invest in spectrum, and thus the success of 5G in Europe. Methods for making spectrum available for verticals also needs to be considered.
These different activities need to be taken into consideration already now in the development strategies for 5G spectrum in Europe, in order to achieve maximum possible harmonization and for Europe to influence and keep pace with international developments. DIGITALEUROPE thus provides recommendations on the way forward regarding 5G spectrum for Europe.