Policy Recommendations for 5G Takeoff

A successful 5G strategy will require a combination of cost effective infrastructure roll out and the development of business cases that leverage 5G´s superior capabilities. The investment and innovation needed will be driven by industry but, as evidenced in this report, governments and regulators across the 5G leadership countries are playing a key role in setting the right conditions for investment to grow and innovation to thrive. Policies and regulation must focus on incentivizing a step change in investment and supporting the deployment and take up of innovative 5G services.

The Government of India has a unique opportunity to leverage the power of 5G to drive forward the Digital India agenda, accelerating economic growth and societal development. The actions it takes will either help realise the full potential of 5G and accelerate its benefits to the country’s citizens and businesses, or risk limiting its potential and delaying the benefits. The challenge is to get the right mix of policies to suit India´s circumstances, and that mix will be unique to India.

Nevertheless, this benchmarking exercise has pointed to a number of key policy considerations that are consistently prioritised by countries leading the way on 5G. India should benchmark against these efforts and repeat best practice where it can. The following eight recommendations for accelerating the roll-out, take up, and use of 5G services link back to the building blocks covered in the report. The first covers the leadership role required of government and the necessity of partnerships with industry. The others focus in turn on seven key areas of policy: spectrum, standards, network deployment, the regulatory framework, net neutrality, test and trial promotion, and technology neutrality.

SECTIONRECOMMENDATION
Building momentum7.1 Build momentum through government leadership
7.2 Get spectrum policy right
Laying the foundations7.3 Avoid standards fragmentation and engage internationally
7.4 Tackle obstacles to infrastructure deployment
7.5 Ensure a future proof, pro-investment regulatory framework
Developing the use cases7.6 Enable 5G driven innovation
Testing, trialing and deployments7.7 Facilitate test-beds, trials and vertical/telco collaboration
5G beyond cellular7.8 Ensure technology neutrality

 

Build momentum through government leadership

The Government of India can reinforce efforts to complement its Digital India and Make in India initiatives through a sustained cross-departmental, cross-sector strategy to ensure the country seizes its 5G opportunity. The High-Level Forum on 5G India has a key role to play as a vehicle, convener, and consensus builder on strategy and planning, and can draw inspiration from similar initiatives described in this report such as the IMT 2020 5G Promotion Group, 5GMF and the 5G Forum (see Fig. 2).

A 5G roadmap with targets, milestones and government commitment to match, will provide the necessary political focus and help marshall the requisite resources to meet the challenge. The government and regulator obviously have a key role to play in policy and regulation, and priorities in this respect are covered in recommendations 7.2 to 7.8 below. But the government can also act as a catalyst for, and an early adopter of, 5G in areas such as health, transport, and the full range of public services that underpin smart communities.

India’s commitment and progress on digital ID and payments will serve it well in this respect, and plans to develop smart cities will help showcase 5G’s capacity to drive improvements in areas such as mobility, safety and energy consumption. Supporting the internationalization of India’s 5G efforts is also a critical role for government. Collaboration, cooperation and benchmarking with the 5G leader countries should be prioritized, as well as continued efforts to engage more deeply in global standards and spectrum harmonisation work.

The government has a further role to play in ensuring a joined-up approach to policies that can impact both the 5G supply and demand sides. The technology is the first “G -type” to have a truly transformational impact across the economy, impacting all sectors, without exception. It follows that it is not sufficient to address just digital policy issues but also to consider policy and regulatory hurdles to 5G across all sectors of the economy. How, for example, should regulators account for accident liability with regards to autonomous vehicles, or the regulation of beyond line of sight drone flights? Finally, India’s 5G strategy must also dovetail with, and benefit from, other Digital India policy priorities such as data protection, cyber security, digital skills, literacy and inclusion, and tax policies.

Get spectrum policy right

The government should focus on making more harmonised spectrum available to meet growing demand for broadband services and connectivity, clearing spectrum for exclusive use where timely clearing is possible but otherwise exploring options for dynamic sharing; awarding it in ways that do not divert resources from investment; and ensuring licences provide the security and consistency to encourage those investments. This growth focussed approach to spectrum policy will be key to realising 5G´s full potential to drive forward the Digital India agenda.

As discussed in section 3.2, one of the defining features of 5G is that it will be able to operate across many different spectrum ranges. Each range will suit particular use cases and each has advantages and disadvantages. To leverage the full capabilities of 5G. and to address the full range of use cases, operators will require access to spectrum in low (propagation and penetration), medium (capacity and coverage) and high (speed and capacity) frequency bands.

The early release of spectrum is a necessary but not sufficient condition for spectrum policy success. It is equally important to ensure that spectrum award procedures target long-term growth, investment and citizen welfare, rather than short-term revenue maximisation. Poorly designed auctions, including high reserve prices, can lead to spectrum being assigned inefficiently and resources being diverted from deployment. Spectrum holds no value until it is fueled by investments from operators so spectrum pricing should focus on making these investments possible, and not undermining them.

The terms attached to licences are also critically important with the priority again to ensure conditions that encourage investment rather than provoke the uncertainty that can undermine it. To maximise spectrum output, licences should be of adequate length and carry clear renewal criteria so that operators can make the long-term investments required. Spectrum fees should be limited to ensuring efficient and effective use, applied only once the spectrum is available to use, and be reduced to reflect any extended coverage commitments.

To encourage innovation, spectrum licensees should allow commercial, operational, and technological flexibility. In particular they should not be tied to a particular technology or a particular use case. With 5G networks expected to support much broader ranges of radio spectrum than ever before and address a much wider range of use cases, licences should avoid limitations that act as artificial barriers to an operator’s ability to utilize its radio spectrum.

An important objective of the recently published National Digital Communications Policy 2018 (NDCP) for India is to ensure new digital technologies are accessible and affordable to all. Achieving this will require a mix of technologies such as mobile, satellite and HAP, combined with spectrum policies that make low and high frequencies available on a technology neutral basis, and provide the right balance of licensed and license-exempt solutions.

Future high-speed Internet access in India will require ‘fiber speed’ broadband networks in support of the dense deployment of Wi-Fi access points and base stations. In this respect, it is critical for India to make the entire V-band (57-64 GHz) available for unlicensed use for indoor applications along with a mix of unlicensed and light-licensed usage for outdoor applications as a complement to licensed 5G bands. This will enable the proliferation of affordable broadband across India. Many regulators in Europe and the US are already moving forward with a license-exempt framework for the V-band.

 

Avoid standards fragmentation and engage internationally

Standards are of paramount importance to ensure the competitiveness and interoperability of global telecommunication networks. Global harmonised standards are the most effective means of building scale in 5G markets and India is now well positioned to play its part in influencing future 5G specifications though the TSDSI´s involvement with the 3GPP. China´s progress in terms of influence and presence across the 3GPP´s activities is an interesting benchmark in this respect.

Participation in international standards development opens the way for local companies and domestic firms to contribute to steering the direction of standardised technologies by building their requirements into the specifications. The process also enables domestic companies to better identify and target research gaps.

As 5G will impact across the economy it is also important to ensure that the vertical industries that will drive many of the use case are also involved in the standards development process. The government can contribute here by supporting cross-industry partnerships, which will also provide a platform for the use case trialing addressed in section 7.7. Ultimately of course, India´s success in shaping the standards process will depend significantly on its ability to channel and target R&D resources, another area targeted by the Digital India initiative.

 

Tackle obstacles to infrastructure deployment

Network operators face a series of obstacles when deploying networks, including high costs and administrative delays in accessing cell sites or fibre ducts, and locally imposed, overly restrictive EMF limits that go beyond international requirements. These issues are often further complicated by inconsistent requirements between regions and municipalities. 5G network densification and demand for more backhaul capacity will make it still more critical that governments and regulators address these obstacles to ensure citizens and businesses are not denied the benefits of advanced connectivity. Policies that reduce obstacles to network deployment are an investment in a community’s infrastructure and future growth.

The main problems linked to macro and small cell sites are access and cost. Administrative delays and inconsistent licensing requirements can exacerbate these. An example of a positive policy initiative in this context would be to grant access to public buildings, street furniture and road side sites at zero or low cost. Another option is to ensure new street furniture is built and installed cell ready (possibly subsidised by telcos) so operators can more easily install their equipment. A further policy lever to facilitate cell deployment is to link any coverage requirements in licences to commitments from local authorities to make it cheaper and easier to secure cell site locations.

Another source of delay and costs with regards to mobile infrastructure deployment is overly restrictive and inconsistent power density limits (PDLs) for mobile networks. The International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) defined these limits, which were subsequently endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The limits were confirmed in 2017 and will be reviewed in 2018 although the

ICNIRP has indicated that any changes are likely to be very small when compared with the large degree of precaution built into the original guidelines. While most countries have adopted the WHO approved limits, it has not always been the case in India. Overly strict PDLs can slow deployment, waste spectrum and complicate the roll-out of new mobile technologies such as massive MIMO. It follows that government at all evels should work to ensure consistent implementation of internationally recognised EMF limits.

5G will also put pressure on backhaul capacity and where this involves fibre the costs are high, the delays in securing rights of way permits can be long, and the build time can be lengthy because of the disruption caused. All these elements together make for a complex and costly deployment environment. To help address this, infrastructure sharing on a commercial basis should be permitted and access to passive infrastructure should be available quickly and at a reasonable cost at both national and local levels.Given the local nature of infrastructure deployment and the subsequent involvement of local authorities, it is important that measures promoted in this section are consistently delivered across states and local bodies. Inconsistencies and delays in implementation merely create further obstacles to the deployment of the networks on which India´s 5G future will depend.

Ensure a future proof, pro-investment regulatory framework

The evolution of India’s communication infrastructure to a 5G network of networks will require significant investments against the challenging backdrop of high sector debt. There are many areas of government policy that can impact on private sector investment, including taxation, but the overarching regulatory framework is critically important as it sends a strong message to investors.

The objective for the government and regulator must be to bolster investor confidence in the sector and incentivise the capital needed to build high capacity broadband networks. The regulatory framework should ensure the necessary certainty and predictability for investors and refocus regulation and competition policy on delivering high performance markets for consumers long-term benefit.

In addition to prioritising investment the rules should also be modernised to fit the direction and pace of changes taking place across dynamic and converging communications markets. Digital convergence has benefited consumers but creates regulatory challenges. Rapid tech innovation and fast changing business models blur the boundaries between markets and undermine the rationale for sector specific regulation.

Obligations tied to a specific technology, rather than the service provided, distort the market and can deter investment. A horizontal approach to rule-making should be prioritised with sector specific regulation only considered as an exceptional top up, and deployed where necessary. It follows that the current licensing framework requires an ambitious review with obligations placed on TSP’s minimised and modified to become cross sectoral regulations.

Enable 5G driven innovation

Many of 5G´s most compelling use cases will rely on the dynamic configuration of networks, leveraging new capabilities and putting them at the service of businesses and consumers. In this context it is important that regulators and legislators avoid introducing rules that restrict or limit the flexibility to manage networks optimally and to innovate. The legal uncertainty this creates would chill innovation and compromise the ability of operators to build the business use cases needed to justify network investments. It is precisely this type of service innovation that will be needed to meet and drive market demand.

Rules that do not reflect 5G´s ability to adapt to end-users´ specific requirements in areas such as latency, data rate, availability and reliability will limit the potential of 5G.

Regulation has to permit the quality differentiation made possible through 5G. Otherwise prescriptive regulation that limits operators’ flexibility to offer enhanced services would undermine one of 5G’s biggest selling points – network performance specifications delivered in slices, and adjusted in real time to suit specific use-cases.

Regulators should also not limit the commercial flexibility that allows operators to offer different combinations of price, quality and content that their customers want, at prices they can pay.

Facilitate testbeds, trials and vertical/comms industry collaboration

As highlighted in section 5, facilitating trials and test beds are a prominent feature of 5G leaders´ roll out plans. An overarching 5G testbed and trials programme should be developed as an integral part of India’s strategy. It can serve as a key driver for India’s 5G ecosystem and an opportunity for all sectors of the economy to be integrated into efforts to maximise the efficiency and productivity benefits flowing from 5G.

More than any other previous generation of mobile technology, 5G will depend on collaboration between industries to realise its full potential. Testing and trialling will help verticals understand what 5G can bring in terms of transforming their businesses, but also for connectivity providers it offers an opportunity to explore the viability, and potential scalability, of different use cases. Developing a domestic programme of this type will also encourage collaboration with similar programmes in other countries and enable further access to benchmarking opportunities and best practice insights.

The government is well placed to ensure the testing and trialing processes are inclusive of all sectors of the economy and must work with the regulator to ensure spectrum availability for trials purposes. A further positive spin off from these types of programmes is that they help identify specific sectoral policy issues that may need addressing to enable the further development of use cases in certain sectors.

Ensure technology neutrality

Section 6 explored the network of networks characteristic of 5G. It is clear that many different technologies will need to come together to ensure delivery of the full range of 5G capabilities and to ensure the smooth delivery of the use cases it makes possible. Against this backdrop it is important that the government and regulator prioritise the principle of technology neutrality.

All technologies must be able to compete and fulfill their potential in contributing to the 5G mix. It is incumbent on policymakers and regulators to avoid picking technology winners and to focus on enabling investments in the most appropriate mix of technologies to secure rapid deployment and upgrade of communications infrastructure.

Spectrum and standardisation policies play a significant role in enabling the integration of different technologies into 5G solutions. Fostering and incentivising the emergence of common standards to enable an integrated eco-system of 5G network technologies is to be prioritised as 5G standardisation activity picks up. Spectrum is an issue for all wireless systems, whether terrestrial or in space. As terrestrial mobile systems move into the millimetre wave bands above 6 GHz, consideration needs to be given to the co-existence needs of all sectors.

Policy Recommendations

To meet the above challenges, 5G mobile and wireless communication systems will require a mix of new system concepts to boost spectral efficiency, energy efficiency and the network design, such as massive MIMO technologies, green communications, cooperative communications and heterogeneous wireless networks. There is a need to explore the prospects and challenges of 5G mobile and wireless communication systems combining all of the above new designs and technologies. Simultaneous management of multiple technologies in the same band limited spectrum is a challenge in 5G mobile communication which supports going beyond voice for newer smart phones and advanced mobile devices.

Following are some recommendations of BIF:

  • Reorient traditional efforts to target significantly more complex, diverse, and unstable scenarios
  • Launch efforts for increased network heterogeneity, looking for (meta-) architectures that can be evolvable, while retaining optimal advantages of existing solutions under control of different operators
  • Design mechanisms to ensure co-existence of virtual networks with existing infrastructure, security and efficient management of virtualized networks and services
  • Develop scenarios where the control and management planes are increasingly complex and aware of user and network context, including tailored network behaviour per user and device.
  • Develop technologies that, based on specific services/users/networks contexts, allow dynamic and flexible creation and operational control of both of virtual networks and the underlying infrastructure resource container
  • Define important milestones to complement the 5G roadmap in terms of showcasing, demonstration and KPI fulfilment
  • Review Policy & Regulation as it needs fresh perspective in the ’light licensing’ domain. Licensing should be pro-innovation.
  • Allocate/assign new spectrum beyond 6 GHz for meeting the requirements in 5G systems
  • Rigid Heavy-handed licensing approach applied to TSPs needs to be reviewed. It should be limited to only where exclusive rights viz. spectrum, RoW, etc are given.
  • Need to move away from the mindset of thinking of limited Spectrum holding per Operator and move to a regime of larger spectrum holding aligned to global best practices.

A liberal non-stifling approach towards licensing is essential for 5G and this is possible under Section-4 of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885.

Courtesy: Policy Impact Partners & Broadband India Forum

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