GSMA touts GDP growth from harmonized spectrum adoption

Asia-Pacific can unlock US$1 trillion growth in Gross Domestic Product by 2020 if all countries in region adopt 700MHz band for mobile services, and create 2.7 million new jobs too.

Mobile operators trade body GSMA reveals Asia-Pacific can stand to generate US$1 trillion in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth by 2020 should the region manage to successfully adopt the 700MHz spectrum band for mobile services.

In a new study released Monday, since the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) implemented the harmonization plan in September 2010, countries such as Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand and Thailand either had announced their commitment to dedicate the bandwidth for mobile services or stated their confidence in the plan.

The study, conducted in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), also noted as part of the economic growth some 2.7 million jobs could be created and government revenues could increase by US$171 billion.

"The availability of the 700MHz band, as a result of the switchover from analog to digital TV services, presents a unique opportunity for spectrum harmonization across Asia-Pacific," said Vaishali Rastogi, partner at BCG.

Chris Perera, senior director of spectrum policy and regulatory affairs at GSMA, urged countries in the region to come onboard the bandwagon as quickly as possible, as delays could significantly hamper the projected benefits.

"To realize this immense potential, it is imperative the region works together to swiftly implement the harmonized 700MHz band plan for mobile services," Perera stated. "Rapid adoption and alignment would generate huge cost efficiencies in both network technology and devices, and ultimately make mobile services more accessible and affordable for consumers."

Conversely, a delay of one year from 2014--which is the base year for the start of the harmonization plan--could result in a loss of more than US$40 billion in incremental GDP growth across the region, the study projected.

A delay of two years to 2016 could lead to a loss of US$138 billion in GDP growth, while 500,000 to 900,000 fewer jobs would be created, depending on how long the delays are, it added.

Countries that do not take part in the harmonization plan will also impact the neighboring countries up to 100 kilometers on both sides of their borders, as this limits participating countries' ability to utilize the spectrum to its maximum extent, GSMA stated.

The increased cost of mobile devices, which will need to be customized to work across differing spectrum bands, will also have to be factored in, the trade body said.

So far, countries such as China and Malaysia have yet to indicate their support for the harmonization plan, Perera noted. Singapore had expressed interest but is concerned neighboring countries had yet to indicate their support, she said.

700MHz band offers wider coverage
The senior director also told ZDNet Asia the lower spectrum band allows countries to deploy wider mobile coverage, which would benefit the rural population . The 700MHz requires less than half of the power in a base station to transmit the same distance as the 2.1GHz band, more commonly known as 3G, she explained.

Not only does it transmit further, it also provides better indoor coverage, Perera added.

Currently, Japan and Papua New Guinea are likely to be the first countries to start the spectrum auction, she stated. The former had been the first in Asia to fully digitize its TV broadcasting system when it made the migration in July last year.

Australia and New Zealand are expected to be the next batch of countries to open up the spectrum band to mobile operators, she added.


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