Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Thailand’s 5G success lies in 3.5GHz band, says GSMA chief

Aug 10. 2020
John Giusti, chief regulatory officer for GSMA
John Giusti, chief regulatory officer for GSMA
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By The Nation

The key to Thailand’s progress in digital technology is 5G in the 3.5GHz bandwidth, said John Giusti, chief regulatory officer for GSMA (GSM Association), an industry organisation that represents the interests of mobile network providers worldwide.

Thailand has the right aspirations and looks set to become a logistics and manufacturing powerhouse in the near future, he said, adding that world-class 5G services will help it achieve these goals, especially with the right number of new harmonised mobile spectra.

For Thailand, licensing 2.6GHz was a valuable first step, but spectrum in the popular 3.5GHz range is also necessary to offer full-fledged 5G services, Giusti said.

5G is growing rapidly and its initial performance in commercial networks is already showing the technology’s phenomenal potential. The Covid-19 pandemic has also shone a spotlight on the value of connectivity.

The potential for socio-economic growth powered by 5G-enhanced remote healthcare and education, industrial automation, next-generation transport and more fits perfectly with Thailand’s 4.0 aspirations.

However, to unlock the full potential of 5G services, governments need to make the right decisions. 5G’s speed, reach and quality depends on governments and regulators supporting timely access to the right amount and type of affordable spectra under the right conditions. The amount and price of spectra also will also directly impact the competitiveness of national economies and can slow or accelerate progress.

Giusti said to flourish, 5G needs spectrum across low- (sub-1GHz), mid- (2.6 and 3.5GHz) and high-bandwidths (mmWaves). Frequencies in the 3.5GHz range are being used for the first 5G implementation in many parts of the world. This range includes frequencies between 3.3-4.2GHz, and 80-100MHz of contiguous spectrum in the band, which is essential for each operator to maximise its capabilities at affordable prices in the first phase of roll out.

The mid-range spectrum has become the birthplace of 5G, and will continue being key for mobile operators in the long-term because it sits at a balancing point between coverage and capacity, and as such as provided the perfect environment for early 5G connectivity.

This initial focus, particularly on the 3.5GHz range, allows for the scale needed to bring down the cost of network equipment and mobile devices. Harmonisation has always played a key role in the success of mobile networks and 5G is no different. It will bring the benefits of 5G to as many Thais as possible.

Giusti said more spectra in the mid-band range is required for current and future demand increases. 5G pioneer South Korea, whose operators offer some of the fastest 5G speeds in the world, is already preparing for that fact.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, the Digital Economy and Society Ministry announced in June that it had decided to reallocate 3.7GHz to 4.0GHz spectra for 5G. It is currently used for satellite communication and the ministry is working towards having this valuable resource used more efficiently via mobile services.

Many countries in the region are also realising the importance of the 3.5GHz range, with Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia release portions of that band for 5G services.

Singapore has released the lower portion of the 3.5GHz band, while Malaysia has identified 3.5GHz as the best band for 5G and is currently working on the technical processes.

Thailand took an important step when it assigned 2.6GHz, but that is not enough to keep up with the Asean 5G race. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) is taking commendable steps as it prepares for the release of the 3.5GHz range for 5G, which will boost its competitiveness against any other country in the region.

Mobile operators, as well as the whole mobile ecosystem, have a long history of working with governments and regulators to address any potential challenges. For 5G, that includes coexistence with other technologies such as TV and satellite services. Overcoming these in the best way can impact the kind of 5G that can be offered and the socio-economic benefits.

At this critical juncture, the mobile industry stands ready to work with NBTC and the government to find ways of promptly releasing 80 to 100MHz of spectrum per operator in the 3.5GHz rage.

Thailand will be able to fully unlock the power of 5G to enable a variety of business-to-business services, such as industrial automation, autonomous drones and Internet of Things, thorough 5G network slicing, that will provide high-performance connectivity to drive innovation.

This will bring the quality of the full 5G experience to consumers and corporations in the short-term to further support Thailand 4.0 and the country’s aspirations, Giusti added.

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