World Radio Conferences, organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency, are held every four years. These treaty conferences have the power to change international regulations on the use of radio spectrum for the different services, including mobile, referred to at the ITU as International Mobile Technologies (IMT).
For the mobile industry, the World Radio Conference 2023 was critical to provide certainty of future spectrum availability on which to build better connectivity. More than 3,900 delegates from 163 countries have finally delivered a very successful agreement, identifying the upper 6 GHz band for IMT, completing the harmonisation of 3.5 GHz band for IMT, allocating the UHF band (470 – 694 MHz) to mobile and approving studies for WRC-27 on new bands.
Spectrum for 5G-Advanced capacity: the upper 6 GHz band
On the upper 6 GHz band, Governments at WRC-23 agreed on a IMT identification for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), for Brazil and Mexico in the Americas, and for three Asian countries.
Technical conditions have been established in the Resolution to protect satellite receivers in space from mobile base stations aggregate interference, but they will not prevent the efficient macro-cellular deployments that maximise the value of the 6 GHz band for society.
There was growing support for other countries to IMT in the 6 GHz band, but due to concerns from neighbouring countries they were not able to join the IMT identification. At WRC-27 there will be another opportunity for adding more countries to the IMT support and pave the way for an almost global identification.
Europe will study in 2024-25 the best usage of the upper 6 GHz band between WiFi and IMT, including the option of a shared framework, with a final decision expected in 2026.
Spectrum for digital equality: UHF band
On the UHF band the final decision of the WRC-23 was a secondary mobile allocation for Europe in all the band (470 – 694 MHz), , while 11 countries in Middle East allocated the band 614 – 694 MHz to mobile on a primary basis and identified the band for IMT.
With a secondary mobile allocation, Europe will be able to deploy IMT once the decisions on the future use of the UHF band are made within Europe, after the planned review of the TV broadcast usage of the band by 2025.
The future of mobile connectivity: WRC-27 IMT
On the future agenda item for WRC-27 on IMT (spectrum for 6G), the WRC-23 finally approved the study of the bands 4400 – 4800 MHz; 7125 – 8500 MHz; 14.8 – 15.35 GHz for IMT.
WRC-23 has provided a clear spectrum roadmap and laid the foundations for its implementation
Identification of additional spectrum at WRC-23 sends a very welcomed signal to manufacturers and operators, pointing to the concrete frequency bands on which to plan future developments. Work at Regional level will now follow, and it will be some years before actual usage rights are issued. When they do, it is important that assignment processes are properly designed, at the right time and with the right conditions.