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ITU now uncertain about mobile spectrum requirements


The ITU-R Working Party 5D (WP5D) - an expert group on mobile services - has failed to agree on future mobile spectrum requirements at their meeting in Halifax, Canada in June 2014.  

Finding additional spectrum for mobile services is a key issue to be addressed at the next ITU World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-15), taking place in Geneva, Switzerland in November 2015.

As part of the preparatory work, WP5D adopted a new report in January this year (Report M.2290) which proposes the amount of spectrum the mobile industry would like to see allocated at the WRC-15. The report is also a key document used to substantiate mobile spectrum requirements.

The Report has been widely criticized within ITU and elsewhere for both its methodology and some of the input assumptions made.  Furthermore, predictions of the future mobile demand have been made without taking into account economic aspects, alternative technologies, or market developments.

Critics say the resulting mobile estimates are greatly exaggerated – possibly by a factor of 100 or more – and do not represent a realistic scenario for mobile usage in 2020. According to the article entitled  “A hundred Superbowls per sq km”, WP5D projects that by 2020, the typical level of everyday mobile demand (excluding WiFi) will be “one hundred times more than the traffic level experienced in the busiest hour at the Superbowl in 2014.”

The Report M.2290 was also investigated in a recent EBU Technical Review article. The conclusions from this article agree that the spectrum requirements for IMT are greatly overestimated.  

The ITU-R Joint Task Group (JTG4-5-6-7), responsible for the preparation of the WRC-15 agenda items 1.1 and 1.2, has requested that WP5D address these critiques and update the estimated mobile spectrum requirements, if necessary.

Up until now, WP5D has been unable to agree on a response despite their reply being expected at next week’s JTG4-5-6-7 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

While some administrations continue to support the conclusions of the Report M.2290, despite criticisms, others want the mobile spectrum estimate to be reconsidered.

It remains to be seen how JTG4-5-6-7 will deal with the issue of future mobile spectrum requirements in the absence of agreed figures. 

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