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Asia-Pacific to generate USD1 trillion in GDP through spectrum harmonisation for mobile broadband

Asia-Pacific is on the cusp of a significant opportunity to unlock USD1 trillion in GDP growth by 2020 through the harmonised adoption of the 700MHz spectrum band for mobile services, according to new research from the GSMA, in partnership with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). As part of this economic growth, there is the potential to create 2.7 million new jobs, support 1.4 million new businesses and increase government revenues by USD171 billion.

"To realise this immense potential, it is imperative that the region works together to swiftly implement the harmonised 700MHz band plan for mobile services," said Chris Perera, Senior Director, Spectrum Policy & Regulatory Affairs, GSMA. "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."

Since the plan was implemented in September 2010 by the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT), a number of countries across the region have either announced their commitment or have shown confidence including Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand and Thailand, with Japan and Papua New Guinea recently awarding licenses. Furthermore, at the 2012 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-12) in Geneva, telecoms regulators in other regions, including Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, have expressed an interest in the APT band plan. 

For Asia-Pacific to fully realise the USD1 trillion opportunity between 2014 and 2020, it is imperative there is no delay in spectrum allocation and deployment. Even a delay of one year, from 2014 to 2015, could result in a loss of more than USD40b of incremental GDP growth across the region, and a delay of two years from 2014 to 2016 could result in a loss of USD138b in GDP growth. A one-year or two-year delay could also result in up to 500,000 or 900,000 fewer jobs being created respectively.

Asia-Pacific countries that do not follow the APT band plan will cause interference up to 100 kilometres on both sides of their borders, also limiting their neighbours’ ability to utilise their own spectrum to its maximum extent. Furthermore, this will increase the cost of mobile devices since these will need to be customised to work across differing spectrum bands.

According to the study, non-compliant countries would experience 5 percent less economic gain, 30 percent less job growth, 30 percent less new business and 18 percent less government revenue. Countries neighbouring non-compliant countries would also lose up to 3 percent of GDP growth, up to 10 percent of job creation, up to 11 percent of new business growth and up to 12 percent government revenue.

"The availability of the 700MHz band, as a result of the switchover from analogue to digital TV services, presents a unique opportunity for spectrum harmonisation across Asia-Pacific," said Vaishali Rastogi, partner at BCG. "It offers the potential to create a coherent ecosystem for LTE and allow manufacturers to quickly roll out standardised devices in multiple territories. This would lower prices and enable more people to access the benefits of the Internet more quickly."