Expectations for 5G from governments and regional groupings, like the EU and CEPT in Europe, are very high. On the operator side, frontrunners are starting to trial, possible applications are being assessed and as far as Korea and Japan are concerned, it‘s almost here — or will be in time for the winter Olympics in PyeongChang in 2018 and the summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

However, the process of spectrum allocation for 5G isn’t going to be quite so much in the public eye – but it will be essential. Finding enough spectrum (probably across more than one range in every country) able to deliver the fast broadband, coverage, capacity and IoT services that, at the very least, 5G is expected to offer is a big ask given the different spectrum priorities and decision-making processes that prevail in so many countries and regions.

To make all of this happen, widely harmonized spectrum, freedom to repurpose existing spectrum and affordable access to the necessary amount of spectrum are all ideals that the operator community (and many other interested parties) will be encouraging governments and regulatory authorities to offer. After all, even compared to 3G and 4G, the investment in 5G infrastructure is going to be staggering — and then services have to be rolled out and the whole thing monetised. Put bluntly, without a coherent, and relatively benevolent spectrum policy across as many regions as possible why should anyone invest?

That’s why Real Wireless is calling for alignments. An alignment on spectrum prices and allocation processes. An alignment on bands that can and should be used. And an alignment that crosses borders: national approaches to regulatory policy that lay the groundwork for collaboration at a global level.

But this is more than just a utopian call for international understanding. Real Wireless has experience of both spectrum management and 5G. We are, for example, involved in assessing the socio-economic benefits of 5G by way of the European NORMA project. We have also worked with regulatory bodies on policy and have a strong track record in assessing spectrum needs and how to meet them. We know how difficult it is to accomplish this and how long it can take. We also know that, as far as 5G is concerned, it’s going to be a more complex challenge than any that have gone before.

This could be the most fundamental change to wireless since it went digital, creating a ‘hyper-connected’ society, supporting everything from connected machinery in factories and automated vehicles to on-demand video — and much more.

The challenge is to deliver widespread coverage and support all use cases — even some we haven’t thought of yet — that could build new and great industries and enhance existing ones with benefits to all. The more coherent, thoughtful and, it has to be said, agile, the international approach to spectrum allocation is the sooner we will be able to enjoy those benefits.

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