The 8th Asia-Pacific Spectrum Management Conference is held in Bangkok from 26 to 27 April 2022. It is jointly hosted by Forum Global and Thailand NBTC, supported by ITU and APT. Global 84 countries with more than 630 participants join the conference on site and in virtual. Speakers include regulators from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, leading operators such as China Mobile and Axiata, leading telecom vendors like Huawei, and international industrial organizations such as GSMA. Dr. Mario Maniewicz, Director of Radiocommunications Bureau ITU and Masanori Kondo, Secretary General of APT give the opening ceremony.
Focus on the potential evolution of the 6GHz band for IMT in the APAC region
The spectrum is the fundamental resources of mobile communication industries development and the core element for 5G and 5G Advanced. A harmonized planning in term of spectrum roadmap and standards must be well-defined.
“Current data consuming in Cambodia, which is now 33 GB per user per month. This is far beyond the ITU forecast of global average, which is 12 GB in 2022. Data consuming in Cambodia is among the highest in APT region, and will grow fast continuously. To address the challenges of long-term growth in data consumption and spectrum demands, 6 GHz is one of the best candidate mid band for us”. Chenda Thong, the Chairman of TRC Cambodia states in his key note speech.
“If we take a global look to see others’ opinion on 6GHz, we found that some countries in our region, for example, China and Japan supported 6GHz or partial of them for IMT. Other regions, such as ATU in Africa and RCC, has formed positive view on 6GHz IMT. It is optimistic about 6GHz band to be identified as IMT spectrum as organizations and countries drive this process regionally and globally,” Chenda Thong, added.
In order to accomplish the Digital Cambodia, 5G full-service development is one of the key factor. Apart from 3.5GHz, Cambodia is considering 6GHz as another important band for IMT under ITU-R study. Hence, Chenda suggests the APAC countries to consider reserving upper 6GHz band for IMT before WRC-23, in order to achieve spectrum and ecosystem harmonization. “And we’re happy to see that 3GPP as global industrial organization already starts the standards for 6GHz IMT”.
Sanea Saiwong, Principle Engineering Expert of the NBTC Thailand announced 5G has been commercially rolled out on 2.6GHz and 700MHz, in trial on 3.5GHz/28GHz, and in studies on 6GHz under WRC-23. In the future, the NBTC claimed that total 2051MHz bandwidth of mid- and low-band will be demanded to provide at least 100 Mbps 5G download speed, out of current 30Mbps average in 4G.
And According to NBTC’s network obligation, licensees shall expand 2600MHz networks that cover 50% of Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) in 1 year and smart cities in 4 years shared by NBTC. While AWN with 95.7% and TUC with 94.5% have completed telecom network rollout in the EEC since March 2021. And national 5G population coverage achieves 77% with total 17,244 of 2600MHz base stations by April 2022.
China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) delegate stated mid-band is chosen as the primary band for 5G globally. The 6GHz will be the key frequency band for future 5G in term of combined advantages of capacity, coverage and cost, especially beneficial for developing countries. At the same time, 6GHz band will no longer be used for fixed services like microwave in China.
China Mobile shares 6G requires more comprehensive performance & capability than 5G is necessary to expand new use cases and business towards 2030. Hence, larger bandwidth & full spectrum access with more efficient use of multi-bands will be required from 5G towards the road of 6G, including sub6GHz, 6GHz, mmWave, THz, etc. Legacy 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz and 4.9GHz spectrum can provide the best alternative mid band for mobile broadband with global harmonized and mature ecosystem.
With the increasing of mobile usage in Finland and 5G network expansion in 3.6GHz, Traficom as regulator mentioned, “the amount of mid-band frequency may not be sufficient in the long run for 5G or introduction of 6G, additional mid-band frequency is required which the possibility of 6GHz usage in IMT system under WRC-23.” Therefore, Traficom supports IMT identification in upper 6GHz.
According to GSMA, by 2025-2030 timeframe, the countries require 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum to meet the IMT user experienced of 100 Mbps downlink and 50 Mbps uplink to reach the vision of 5G services, and therefore, 6GHz is a prime candidate. The 3GPP RAN Plenary has rolled out the standardization work of upper 6GHz (6425-7125 MHz) band as a new IMT frequency band, and completion is expected in 2022. Lastly, GSMA called on regulator “to consider at least upper 6 GHz for IMT licensed use, while lower 6GHz should be consider as technology neutral basis.”
Du Yeqing, Huawei Vice President of 5G Product Line, also highlights 2000MHz of mid band spectrum per country is required in the following 5 to 10 years, to support the need of higher speed user experience with affordable services in 5G full scenario. The 2.1/2.3/2.6/4.9 GHz bands have mature ecosystem, support 5G primary development, the same as C band. Industry partners are working together to ripen the 6 GHz ecosystem to meet the long-term needs of 5G.
Present “balancing priorities – Delivering a spectrum strategy” to meet the varied connectivity requirements of the APAC region
Indonesia expected to release 700MHz in low band for 5G by the end of 2022. Mid band 3.5GHz is also under refarming and reassignment process for 5G, and planned to release by 2023. The 6GHz and 4.9GHz for IMT 5G will be decided after WRC-23.
The APT 700MHz is becoming a primary band for 4G and 5G with matured ecosystem support. Axiata urges APAC regulators to release 700MHz as IMT and harmonise this spectrum as soon as possible including in Indonesia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal as well.
Celcom Malaysia delegate shares accelerating mobile backhaul upgrades, with sufficiency microwave spectrum including E-band and technology innovations such as band aggregation. It promotes to scale alongside RAN evolution from 4G to 5G to meet increasing data experience expectations.
Renato Lombardi, Chairman of ETSI ISG mWT, says that E-band is vital in APAC as the perfect solution for the very high percentage of short links within range of E-Band stand alone or Dual Band, favourable licensing conditions are mandatory to make it widely adopted in the region.
Finally, Dr. Atsuko Okuda, Regional Director of ITU Asia and the Pacific gives closing remarks. Global harmonized spectrum is the key to wireless services which enables technologies and services to improve access, affordability and security as well as to secure the required investment. The high level of participation made the session lively with interesting inquiries on agenda items of WRC-23, C band related discussion for finding the right balance in key mid band frequencies and growing interest of region in 6GHz band. The discussion during this event would help the participants to get involved in preparatory meetings for WRC-23 in a more informed way with an eye on digital connectivity for 5G and beyond.