Three spectrum-related sessions were held during ITU Telecom World 2018, as follows:
A session on ‘Leapfrogging to 5G? was attended by over 100 participants and consisted of a panel of experts from Inmarsat, ATU, EMEA (American Tower Corporation), Nokia and ICASA. The session was moderated by Mr. Mario Maniewicz, Deputy Director, Radiocommunication Bureau, ITU with the following question: Does 5G offer Africa a critical opportunity to fast-track development – and if so, how viable is 5G deployment across the continent?
The opening keynote speech was given by Mr. Abdoulkarim Soumaila, Secretary-General of the African Telecommunications Union.
The panel of experts agreed that 5G can be expected to flourish in Africa, given the right applications and business models are used. Partnerships are essential to the success of 5G, beyond public-private funding mechanisms.
It’s also critical to look at intersectoral alliances, acknowledging the complimentary role of different technologies in different scenarios; and smart partnerships in local contexts, such as infrastructure sharing between operators or even different utilities, or tax incentives for private buildings to open up space for small cell stations. What’s important, the panel stressed, is to move beyond current models.
A Session on Spectrum challenges: preparing for WRC-19 was opened and moderated by Mr. François Rancy, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau with a panel of experts from GSMA, Inmarsat, Qualcomm Inc. and WMO and was attended by over 80 participants.
The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) convenes every four years to update the international regulations governing the use of spectrum and is a consensus-driven process with a history of more than 110 years. Preparations for WRC-19 have been ongoing since the final day of the last conference in 2015. They rely on the studies conducted in ITU-R on how any changes can be made to the radio regulations to enable new technologies whilst continuing to protect the investments.
WRC is about building a sustainable ecosystem of radio communications where multiple stakeholders all use – and often share -the same radio frequency spectrum.
The main issues on the agenda at WRC-19 includes the identification of new bands for IMT-2020 to foster 5G deployment, and the allocation of additional spectrum for non-geostationary satellite constellations and High Altitude Platform Systems to bring mobile broadband connectivity to the unconnected.
Spectrum remains a limited resource and striking the right balance between connecting the unconnected, enabling new technologies for mobile broadband and satellite services, and protecting critical services will remain a delicate one.
A third, Wireless technologies for Africa spectrum management session was attended by over 80 participants.
The session was moderated by Mr. Joaquin Restrepo, Head, OPS Division, BR, ITU with a panel of experts from Huawei Technologies ltd., OneWeb, GSMA, and Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) and the keynote speech was delivered by Mr. Mario Maniewicz, Deputy Director, Radiocommunication Bureau, ITU.
Connecting Africa means connecting locally, which has to include rural and remote areas. A large range of technologies can be used to provide this and include fixed, wireless, and satellite networks such as high throughput (HTS), non-GSO and High Altitude Platform Satellites (HAPS). Deploying these technologies to connect the unconnected will not happen without new approaches to partnerships across sectors, ministries and industries -and political will.
Existing preconceptions on the challenges of connectivity in Africa need to be re-examined, starting with the fact that in some areas coverage is as high 90%, but adoption only 10%. Once you understand the needs, then you realise that one type of technology to bridge the digital divide is not enough – you have to marry different technologies, fibre, wireless, satellites, HAPS, and work together to connect the unconnected.
Government and industry also need to work together to enable new technologies to be deployed in rural and remote areas, addressing in particular government investments, subsidies and harmonized regulations. Satellite networks face barriers to entry, high cost fees and other legal requirements that often slow down their deployment. Many regulations are obsolete and opaque, closing the door to new technologies.
New radiocommunication systems can provide low cost connectivity in rural areas, whether high throughput for point to point connectivity, broadcasting and streaming, or the high capacity and low latency required for backhaul LTE and 5G solutions. It won’t be possible to implement 5G in rural and remote regions without these alternative connectivity technologies.
Innovative partnerships should embrace infrastructure sharing, open access, community networks and new verticals such as energy, education or healthcare.
Preventing spectrum shortage is key to enabling new technologies and expanding connectivity. New approaches to spectrum sharing, regulating and auctions are vital, but depend upon one thing: political awareness of the relationship between spectrum and connectivity. And it is not just ICT ministers, but also finance ministers who need to be made aware of it, to avoid inhibitive prices impacting affordability of services in the country.
Other sessions at Telecom World 2018 also addressed spectrum issues as follows:
The 8th Spectrum and Technology Workshop under the theme of “The Road to Mobile Future: Efficient Spectrum, Affordable Technology”, was jointly hosted by International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Global TD-LTE Initiative (GTI), China Mobile and Telecommunication Development Industry Alliance (TDIA).
The keynote speech was given by the ITU Secretary-General, Mr. Houlin Zhao with keynote speaker Mr. François Rancy, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. The workshop brought together delegates from governments, regulators, organizations, operators and industry partners not only to share views on global unified planning of 4G/5G spectrum, evolution from 4G to 5G, affordable 4G/IoT/5G technology and service to bridge the digital gap, but also take deep insight to the market opportunities of Africa to boost the mobile economy.
The Workshop covered spectrum and policy, strategy and experience in bridging the digital gap, the 4G dividend and cost efficiency for a better Africa. The session closed with a panel discussion on the right spectrum and regulatory policy to accelerate mobile development in Africa and discussed affordable mobile technology and products necessary to realize a ‘connected Africa’.
A Session on Spectrum pricing to drive the mobile broadband revolution with keynote speech given by the ITU Secretary-General, Mr. Houlin Zhao. Organized by the GSMA, this session explored the latest pricing research, focusing on developing markets, and discussed evolving policy best practice to drive investment in high quality, affordable mobile broadband services.
The session discussed the need for better spectrum pricing policies to improve the economic and social welfare of the billions of people that remain unconnected to mobile broadband services.
The importance of communication has been told many time and the impact on citizens cannot be underestimated. Mobile has to be seen to underpin the vast majority of internet access in developing countries. Carefully planned spectrum auctions, and other awards, are vital as digital economies depend on them.