The benefits of technology neutral spectrum licenses

Technology neutral spectrum

What is technology neutral spectrum licensing?

The GSMA defines as below:

Technology neutral spectrum licensing is widely recognized as best practice when assigning spectrum to mobile operators. It enables mobile operators to refarm spectrum used for GSM (2G) or 3G to 4G and 5G at a pace that’s driven by market demand. This maximizes spectral efficiency in a technical sense and also maximizes efficient use of spectrum. As a result, users benefit from better mobile broadband coverage, higher data speeds and lower mobile data prices than would otherwise be the case.

To enable governments to ensure that both consumer and businesses in their country take benefit from the high quality of mobile broadband, it is imperative that they show support for technology neutral spectrum licensing.

The significance of neutral spectrum licensing or reframing?

A recent GSMA report “The benefits of technology neutral spectrum licenses” delves in to this topic. Technology neutrality allows operators to replace GSM with 4G and more recently 5G within a certain band of frequency. They are able to do this at a pace which is driven by market demand. The particular process – also known as re framing – allows spectrum to be utilized more effectively and efficiently, which should always be the intention of both regulators and governments.

The assigning of neutral spectrum rights has been considered best practice for over ten years, as a result of this, more regulators around the world have adopted the policy of technology neutrality for mobile spectrum licenses.

Finland was the first country in Europe to allow the 900 MHz to be technology neutral and ensured that mobile users were able to benefit from much better geographical 3G coverage than other European countries.  The introduction of technology neutrality in Singapore, resulted in one of the world’s most successful mobile markets, where both consumers and businesses were able to take advantage of both low-latency and low-cost communication services.

To get technology neutrality right, there are a few things to keep in mind:

• Attempts to extract additional revenue has misfired and held back the introduction of new mobile technologies;
• While a renewal process provides an opportunity to re-issue spectrum licenses as neutral, regulators should not delay the introduction while waiting for the expiry dates of existing licenses;
• 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.

Advancements in technology are actually making the decision to allow and actively support technology neutrality. The options for managing re framed bands have increased and developed significantly.

The most important development is the ability to ‘gracefully re frame’ bands so they are used concurrently for several technologies – including 4G and 5G. This makes way for the introduction of newer technologies in line with the rising demand for mobile broadband, whilst at the same time, supporting legacy users. This means the regulators will not worry about leaving legacy users unserved.

The implications of technology neutral spectrum licensing It is worth mentioning that allowing mobile operators to reframe spectrum doesn’t let them do anything they wish to within a band. Other spectrum users would still be protected. However, implementing technology neutrality in countries where it still isn’t permitted should be an easy decision. As a result of this, users benefit from better mobile broadband coverage, higher data speeds and lower mobile data prices than would otherwise be the case. The socio-economic advantages that come from such improvements, ensure it is a win-win for governments and all mobile data subscribers; consumers as well as business enterprises.