WRC-23 identifies more spectrum bands for 5G, 6G and HAPS

WRC-23 clears more spectrum bands for 5G, 6G and HAPS

The World Radio Conference 2023 (WRC-23) wrapped up in Dubai on Friday with good news on the spectrum front for the mobile sector's 5G and 6G ambitions, as well as countries banking on non-terrestrial HAPS solutions to connect underserved and unserved areas.

On the mobile side, the big news was the securing the 6 GHz band (6.425-7.125 GHz) globally for mobile services. The GSMA has been lobbying hard for the 6 GHz band, arguing that it’s the only remaining band that can add another 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum per market to expand radio capacity for 4G, 5G, 5G-Advanced and beyond. The GSMA says the mobile sector will need that much additional spectrum by 2030 to meet mobile broadband demand.

That said, the devil is still in the details for some countries. As Developing Telecoms reported last week, some countries, like the US, have delicensed the entire 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi usage. India could potentially go the same route as the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) is being lobbied on both sides to free up the 6 GHz being used by the Indian Space Research Organisation for either mobile or unlicensed Wi-Fi usage.

WRC-23 also finalised harmonisation of the 3.5 GHz band (3.3-3.8 GHz) across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) as well as throughout the Americas. It also defined mobile use of low-band spectrum in the 470-694 MHz band in EMEA.

Luciana Camargos, head of spectrum at GSMA, said in a statement the low bands will help expand capacity for the internet connectivity of rural communities in the EMEA region.

“As mobile connectivity develops, we need to ensure that we can deliver services for everyone. The great legacy of WRC-23 will be in allowing us to do so sustainably, affordably and in a way that delivers for the whole planet,” she said.

Looking ahead to 6G, the ITU also agreed to study the 7-8.5 GHz band for 6G in time for the next WRC in 2027.

GSA president Joe Barrett said in a statement the decisions for the 6 GHz and 7-8.5 GHz bands would ensure the ongoing growth of 5G and paves the way for 6G from 2030 onwards.

“The entire global mobile ecosystem can now innovate with confidence and a clear sense of the spectrum requirements for 6G, both in terms of its future availability and compatibility with other users of the spectrum,” he said.

Meanwhile, WRC-23 also identified the 2 GHz and 2.6 GHz bands for using high-altitude platform stations (HAPS) as IMT base stations and established regulations for their operations.

Telecom Paper, quoting the Brazilian government, reports that the 694-960 MHz and 1,710-1,885 MHz IMT bands have also been approved for such platforms, known in WRC parlance as HIBS (HAPS IMT base stations).

HAPS can include platforms such as UAVs, aerostats and balloons that provide direct cellular connectivity to the ground at altitudes between 18-25 km. Such technologies essentially enable cellular base stations to be deployed in the sky with the goal of providing fast, cheap connectivity in remote and rural areas. HAPS can also be used to provide temporary connectivity during disasters when terrestrial communications are knocked out.

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