Mobile operators need exclusive access to spectrum for mobile broadband services, the GSMA insisted on Tuesday.
The growing pressure on mobile networks has led to high-level discussions in some regions around mobile operators sharing spectrum with other, non-telco entities. The European Commission's Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) backed licensed shared access (LSA) late last year, while in the U.S. the FCC is looking at a similar approach.
But while this might seem like one obvious solution to free up more valuable spectrum, there are pitfalls to take into account.
Vertical spectrum-sharing, that is, between a non-commercial or governmental incumbent and a mobile network operator "could be a complementary tool," but it should not be seen as a substitute to giving operators exclusive access to spectrum suitable for mobile broadband, Wladimir Bocquet, senior director of spectrum policy at the GSMA, told Total Telecom this week.
He warned that shared spectrum can bring with it restrictive conditions, such as smaller coverage areas, shorter-term licences, and an uncertain regulatory framework.
"[This] devalues the frequencies," Bocquet said.
To back up its stance, the industry body has published a report it commissioned from Deloitte that shows how the potential economic benefits of spectrum can decline under a shared licensing model. The aforementioned conditions can reduce the likelihood of operators to invest, which means the potential economic benefits are lower, the report claims.
In the European Union, giving operators exclusive access to the 2.3-GHz band - currently used predominantly by the military - could provide an €86 billion boost to the economy in 2016-2030. However, under shared licensing this could fall to anywhere between €5 billion and €70 billion, depending on the severity of the restrictions imposed on the spectrum.
For example, restrictions on power transmission could mean the band would end up being used only for small cells, rather than both macro and small cell networks, Bocquet explained.
The 2.3-GHz spectrum band is important because it is a globally harmonised band for mobile broadband and has been standardised by the 3GPP for TDD LTE. The EU has 100 MHz of spectrum between 2.3 GHz and 2.4 GHz.
"The operators are interested in getting access to