Report: 5G Success Depends on Regulatory Collaboration and Spectrum Sharing

Regulatory requirements are an important aspect of ushering in the 5G era, significantly affecting the design and deployment of next-generation mobile networks.

5G requirements “primarily concern the need for 5G networks to support existing emergency and government services,” said 5G Americas in its August 2017 white paper, “5G Regulatory Policy Considerations and Spectrum Sharing.”

Services such as:

  • Emergency voice calls
  • SMS for emergency situations
  • Multimedia emergency communications like next-gen 911
  • Small device integration (think IoT) into emergency scenarios
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts
  • Earthquake Early Warning Systems
  • Public safety and first responders
  • Services that support people with disabilities (such as real-time text service)
  • Lawful surveillance

Each of these is given a detailed discussion in the paper.

Beyond these more obvious regulatory considerations, “it is expected that 5G systems will provide the ability to offer new public services,” such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications, 5G Americas predicted.

5G System Attributes

Elaborating further, 5G Americas identified three major expected attributes of 5G systems, which will “be leveraged and combined in a variety of ways to provide the transport that is required by the systems that provide these emergency and government services.”

Those attributes are:

  • Speed increases, enabling faster gathering and distribution of emergency information
  • Capacity increases, expanding the use of multimedia as a basis rather than add-on for services
  • Reliability enhancements, ensuring data delivery and reducing need for follow-up queries by people making critical decisions

Underpinning all three of these attributes is the need for shared spectrum, enabling 5G systems to operate optimally through access to large amounts of spectrum.

“While sole access to spectrum will continue to be a mainstay of major public networks, the ability to take advantage of additional spectrum that is shared with others will provide expansion capacities that may be extremely important to providing subscribers with the speeds and capacities they expect of 5G,” 5G Americas predicted.

The onus is now on the telecom industry to “provide the necessary resources to identify standards gaps and develop standards solutions,” to comply with regulatory body 5G requirements as they emerge, 5G Americas stressed.

5G Spectrum Sharing

While “licensed exclusive use of spectrum remains critical to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) because it provides, among other things, greater certainty in long-term access and performance, as well as protection from interference,” shared and unlicensed spectrum hold represent a significant opportunity for MNOs, enterprises, and entrepreneurs using 5G New Radio, 5G Americas predicted.

How might that spectrum sharing work? And what benefits, specifically, could it deliver for MNOs?

5G Americas identified two main sharing models:

  1. Vertical or tiered – where incumbent users already exist in a given band and remain protected with highest priority
  2. Horizontal – where there is no difference in priority among users sharing the spectrum, and no guaranteed protection from interference

A combination of both models will be needed for 5G.

For MNOs, access to shared 5G spectrum could mean the ability to:

  • Augment licensed services with additional capabilities to customers
  • Create larger bandwidth channels to support higher user throughput and data-intensive applications

“While certain mobility and ultra-reliability services may require exclusively licensed spectrum, limited sharing with the primary incumbent, with well-defined spectrum rights, can incentivize the MNO to use the shared band as a primary band for 5G services,” 5G Americas said. “It is for this reason that spectrum licensing terms that are attractive to MNOs will go a long way in supporting the development of 5G networks in shared spectrum.”

Of course, the telecom industry (with good reason) tends to hates uncertainty related to anything it might invest in, so “From a regulatory perspective, clear and distinct spectrum sharing rules should be the goal of any spectrum sharing policy,” 5G Americas stressed. “Two- tiered sharing models—with demarcated protection rights for the incumbent and spectrum rights for the new entrant licensee—provide the predictability necessary for marketplace investment.”

What’s Next for 5G?

5G Americas concluded its paper by characterizing 5G solutions as being built on those provided by 4G, rather than a complete break into a new technology. In other words, 5G will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Further, the organization advised that major operators are responsible for supporting the regulatory requirements of their region, and stressed the need for ongoing collaboration between operators, vendors, and regulatory agencies to ensure successful development of 5G.