14 November, 2023

WRC-2023: A call to prioritise stronger 5G and rural connectivity

Brussels, 16 November 2023 – ETNO, the Association representing Europe’s leading telecom operators, welcomes the start of the World Radiocommunication Conference of 2023 (WRC-23), which will take important decisions on spectrum policy. As negotiations start in Dubai next Monday, ETNO calls on ITU Member States to prioritise the quality of mobile connectivity for consumers as well as to empower innovative 5G use cases. From a European perspective, such aspects are crucial to accelerating the achievement of the EU Digital Decade targets.

WRC-23 has a key role in enabling regulatory clarity for future spectrum availability in low and mid-bands, which are critical especially in regions such as Europe. Our continent is characterised by high adoption rate of mobile services, but also by extensive rural areas with sparse population. Ensuring that the connectivity needs of the future are covered, the European telecom industry urges for support especially on two WRC-23 agenda items: “Upper 6 GHz”, in agenda item 1.2 and “sub-700 MHz”, in agenda item 1.5.

In addition, we call for clarity on Europe’s ambition to be at the forefront in 6G research and, in due time, on deployment: in this context, it is important to recognize and consider spectrum demands for 6G in the WRC-27 agenda.

Securing advanced 5G services with additional spectrum in the 6 GHz band

The “Upper 6-GHz” band will be essential to unlock economic and societal opportunities. This band is absolutely crucial to meet network capacity, especially as data usage is expected to continue growing, with huge potential future demands linked to Virtual Reality or AI-generated content. Also, the “Upper 6-GHz” band is at the heart of the development of smart cities and smart manufacturing plants of tomorrow, which require pro-investment spectrum policies. Today, in Europe and elsewhere, there is not sufficient mid-band spectrum to meet future connectivity demands. We need networks that are capable of delivering both coverage and capacity for mobile networks across cities, to which the “Upper 6GHz” is crucial. Additional spectrum with suitable characteristics for advanced 5G services is important for effective mobile site planning, and has a direct impact on the consumption of energy and equipment, and hence on reducing the carbon footprint of network operations.

The European telecom industry is asking for the IMT identification of the “Upper 6-GHz” as well as for creating the conditions to allow macro deployments. We believe this is necessary to allow the mobile technology ecosystem to contribute towards Europe’s digital goals.

Better rural connectivity: opening the 470-694 MHz to mobile services

With the growing demand for mobile broadband services in rural areas, the “sub-700 MHz” band is of outmost importance to support the reduction of the digital divide in sparsely populated areas and provide better access to digital healthcare, education, and diverse media services. It will also support other usage scenarios such as automated driving by strengthening nationwide networks. For this reason, we believe that a primary mobile allocation in the 470-694 MHz band would be the most efficient decision to help bridge the urban-rural digital divide in the future.

Delaying the decision to the next WRC would be a missed opportunity. While WRC-23 decisions do not pre-empt any European decisions on the future usage of spectrum, a primary mobile allocation in “sub-700 MHz” would allow Europe to decide flexibly when and how to introduce mobile services in these bands.

Lise Fuhr, ETNO Director General, said: “Connectivity keeps societies going even in the toughest times. We support future-oriented decisions at WRC-23, so that mobile connections can bring inclusion to rural areas and 5G enables industrial innovation and growth”.

© ETNO 2024
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