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The GSMA is leading the mobile industry in its clash with space agencies over access to the high-band spectrum needed to support 5G implementation.

The GSMA, an industry body representing 750 mobile operators and 400 other companies in the mobile industry worldwide, including giants like Deutsche Telekom and Huawei, is accusing the space lobby of taking over frequencies in a way that could inhibit 5G implementation. The disputed higher-frequency band of the wireless spectrum, known as the high-band spectrum or millimetre wave, can transfer data at unprecedented speeds, surpassing even the high-speed mid-band spectrum or “Goldilocks bands.”

The issue is being raised in the lead-up to the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC), organized by the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), a specialized agency of the UN. The month-long conference is held every three to four years to review the Radio Regulations, the treaty which governs the use of the radio frequency spectrum as well as satellite orbits. The WRC convenes in Egypt this year on October 28.

The mobile industry is pushing for full access to the high-band spectrum; however satellite operators, including the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA and its European counterpart, ESA, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), want to reserve a margin of unused bandwidth. Their concern is that 5G could interfere with sensors used in critical weather and climate forecasting. Officials from NASA and NOAA have testified before the U.S. Congress that 5G interference could impede weather forecasters tracking dangerous hurricanes, for example.

Brett Tarnutzer, Head of Spectrum at GSMA, has dismissed these concerns as his organization marshals its lobbying operations early. “We’re heading for a confrontation here,” said Tarnutzer, who is calling for more flexibility on the part of the commercial space industry and government space agencies, Reuters reports.

Tarnutzer and other mobile industry advocates stress the benefits of 5G to be gained by developing nations, for example, as the next-generation service could improve the efficiency of ports and shipping. The GSMA estimates the overall economic benefits of 5G for the global economy at $565 billion through 2034. Since the ITU operates on a principle of one country, one vote, the GSMA hopes to build a coalition of emerging nations. “So often we think about 5G as a very first-world technology, but we have found that it is going to have major potential globally,” said Tarnutzer.

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