IMT Spectrum Identification: An Obstacle for 5G Deployments?
38 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 25, 2019
Tensions are emerging ahead of WRC-19. While this conference will determine the identification of IMT in the millimetre bands, several countries have not waited for it to resolve the issue but instead already decided on which bands will be utilised for 5G. The orderly and centralised allocation of spectrum where WRC/ITU plays a central and pivotal role is starting to break down as regions and individual countries allocate spectrum bands to 5G. As this occurs, and the US criticises the role of the ITU, many commentators have expressed their concern that the WRC will be less relevant in future.
Within this context, this paper focuses on the allocation of bands to 5G and asks whether IMT identification is a condition of 5G deployment. Through adopting a qualitative methodology that focuses on 5G deployment and planning in frequency bands not identified for IMT, a number of cases – L-band, C-band and 26 GHz in CEPT and 28 GHz in the US and South Korea – are explored. Primary data was collected through participant observation of relevant discussions during and after WRC-15, while secondary data was drawn from ITU-R documents and the trade press.
The analysis reveals that IMT identification is necessary for cellular mobile deployment in some countries (e.g., Russia) while for others (e.g., US) mobile service allocation is sufficient. In both cases, these countries operate within the ITU-R framework but interpret it differently and IMT remains critical even when these interpretations differ. This is because operating without IMT identification is associated with uncertainty in terms of protection against interference and the legal status of the allocation. Having said that, there are still benefits of operating outside with IMT identification such as the avoidance of strict sharing conditions that may add to the cost of deployment.
Keywords: IMT, WRC, ITU, Spectrum, 5G
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