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GSMA Warns That Policymakers Must Act Now to Avoid Mobile Network “Gridlock” in Major Cities

GSMA Warns That Policymakers Must Act Now to Avoid Mobile Network “Gridlock” in Major Cities

New Report Indicates Megacities Cannot Handle Data Demand Without Supportive Policies for Affordable and Timely Deployment of Next-Generation Mobile Networks.

The GSMA today published a new report that examines the ability of mobile networks to meet the exploding demand for mobile data in the world’s largest and densest cities.

The GSMA/Boston Consulting Group report, “Delivering the Digital Revolution: Will Mobile Infrastructure Keep Up with Rising Demand?”, finds that networks in so-called “megacities” such as New York, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tokyo will face a significant gap between mobile data traffic demand and available network capacity, with as much as 48 per cent of traffic demand going unserved in ultra-dense urban areas by 2025. The report highlights that regulatory reform will be critical in closing the projected supply-demand gap and unlocking the economic potential of next-generation mobile broadband.

“The current global regulatory landscape has been successful in creating a competitive market that has made mobile connectivity accessible to more than five billion people around the world,” said John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA. “However, unless government policies encourage investment, the network capacity required to satisfy future demand is unlikely to be achieved.”

“This will result in a bad deal for consumers and businesses, particularly those in our most populous cities, and is likely to have a direct impact on these economies. Measures such as making affordable spectrum available and relaxing planning restrictions on small cells can help foster an environment that enables operators to build mobile networks ready for the future.”

Factors such as 5G and the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) will cause mobile data demand to grow by more than 50 per cent in major cities across the world by 2025. Consequently, mobile operators’ capital and operational expenditures in cities would need to triple to provide sufficient network capacity – a level of expenditure that is simply not sustainable under current conditions.

Bespoke policy approaches are required to serve the needs of all stakeholders: citizens, governments and network operators. In the report, the GSMA makes six key recommendations for policymakers to promote infrastructure investment:

  • Release additional affordable spectrum: Greater availability of spectrum at fair prices could accelerate investment and have significant benefits in terms of network capacity.
  • Facilitate deployment of fronthaul and backhaul infrastructure: Successful deployment of new macro and small cells to boost network capacity requires access to backhaul networks.
  • Provide more access to advantageous macro-cell and small-cell sites: Rents for cell sites have risen steeply. Access to sites on publicly owned buildings and street furniture would remove a significant obstacle to new cell deployment.
  • Allow network sharing agreements: Permitting operators the flexibility to enter into commercial agreements on network sharing would substantially reduce capital and operating costs for operators.
  • Enable small-cell deployment: Streamlining planning approvals for widespread small cell installation could expedite network investment and increase capacity in large cities.
  • Harmonise power density limits: Regulations setting exposure to levels of radiofrequency electromagnetic files should be harmonised with internationally recommended limits.

“Reforming regulation to reflect changing market and technology realities is a long and complex process, but it is vitally important to ensure our networks continue to deliver the best possible experience for subscribers,” Giusti said.

“Reaching compromise and balancing the needs of regulators and operators is critical to building the networks of the future and unlocking the economic and social benefits that access to mobile provides. All stakeholders must work together to ensure the timely and affordable deployment of new technologies necessary to delivering the next stage of our digital transformation journey.”

“Delivering the Digital Revolution: Will Mobile Infrastructure Keep Up with Rising Demand?” can be found here: www.gsma.com/publicpolicy/delivering-the-digital-revolution.
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