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GSMA releases the “Licensing to Support the Mobile Broadband Revolution” report

May 16, 2012
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The GSMA has released a report, “Licensing to Support the Mobile Broadband Revolution”.

The GSMA has commissioned this report to examine the experience with mobile spectrum licensing around the globe to date and draw out the lessons for policy. A key focus is on what works well in emerging markets and how the lessons can be applied to the additional spectrum to be allocated over the new few years. Choosing the correct spectrum policy will be particularly important in emerging markets where mobile services can be expected to provide the principal access to high-speed data, as they have with voice.

The key recommendations in relation to reforming the overall licensing framework include:

  • Licensing authorities should progressively remove restrictions that unduly restrict operators from determining which services they will provide and the technology that they will use. Restrictions that do not result in clear net benefits should be relaxed. Operating licences should be expanded to cover a greater range of services or, where appropriate, replaced altogether by simpler authorisations or class licences. Where restrictive operating licences are maintained they should be separated from licences for the use of spectrum. Spectrum licences should, in general, contain spectrum management provisions only or principally. This will assist changes in business activities and spectrum holdings and support the evolution of technologies and the different needs between radio spectrum management and other aspects of the licence. Operators offering similar services should be subject to the same terms and conditions.
  • Spectrum should be managed to ensure that a country obtains maximum benefit from the use of its spectrum resources. Spectrum rights should be assigned to the services and the operators who can generate the greatest benefits to society from the use of that spectrum. Market-based approaches represent a key means to ensure that spectrum is used to supply the services most in demand and operators are able to use the best available technology to deliver those services.
  • Licensing authorities should ensure that the overall licensing framework offers stability and transparency to reduce regulatory risk and promote investment. Key principles should include:

- establishing and adequately resourcing an independent regulator with responsibility for operator and spectrum licensing among other matters;

- announcing in advance a long term plan for reform of the spectrum and operating licensing framework;

- facilitating international harmonisation so that equipment and devices use the same frequency bands to support international roaming and enable the realisation of scale economies in manufacture;

- publicly setting out the criteria and process to be followed in licensing decisions and including public written consultation in advance of key decisions being made with both consultation responses and the assessment of input in reaching final decision being published;

- clearly defined spectrum rights that are backed up by a robust compliance/enforcement regime;

- taking a holistic approach to licensing that ensures that the overall package enables the ongoing development of the mobile industry (including a process for the renewal of licences at their expiry); and

- taking into account investors, legitimate expectations and providing compensation mechanisms where decisions are made in conflict with those expectations.

  • Licensing authorities can take a number of key steps to free up spectrum that is currently poorly utilised and use that spectrum to deliver higher valued services. In particular, authorities should both identify what spectrum rights are able to be assigned to provide additional spectrum capacity as well as enabling current spectrum assigned for mobile services to be used more effectively. Enabling flexible/technology neutral use of spectrum so that operators who currently use spectrum for 2G services have the ability to determine when the use of part or all of this spectrum should be changed for 3G and newer mobile technologies such as Long Term Evolution (LTE) services. This is an important way to expand over time the services able to be carried with existing spectrum as well as facilitating lower cost services, expanded geographic coverage and better indoor coverage, depending on the bands considered.
  • Current rights to use spectrum should be clearly specified and spectrum bands that are currently idle or being poorly utilised (including by public sector agencies) should be considered for re-allocation to services that could use the spectrum to generate greater benefits for society.
  • Licensing authorities should publish a road map of the planned release of additional spectrum bands to maximise overall benefits from the use of spectrum including taking into account the benefits of international harmonisation. In doing so, aligning spectrum rights with the internationally harmonised mobile spectrum bands will ensure that operators and their customers can acquire competitively provided equipment and devices and that customers can readily access international roaming services.
  • Licensing authorities should progressively remove service and technology restrictions in existing mobile spectrum usage rights to enable operators to choose when to deploy mobile technologies that can technically co-exist so as to increase spectral capacity, reduce cost of provision, extend coverage to rural areas and improve indoor coverage. Operators themselves are likely to be best placed to determine the speed of migration particularly recognising that 2G services are likely to remain important for the next 5 to 10 years.
  • New spectrum usage rights within the mobile bands should be issued on a service and technology neutral basis subject to the use of technologies which can technically co-exist without intolerable interference.
  • Licensing authorities should facilitate harmonisation of spectrum through allocating radio frequency bands in accordance with international agreements and by applying spectrum management approaches aligned with international best practice.

The report is attached below


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