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Releasing 5G mmWave Spectrum Could Give Sub-Saharan Africa $5.2B Boost: GSMA

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Releasing 5G millimeter-wave spectrum capacity is expected to contribute us$5.2 billion in GDP and and $970 million in tax revenue to Sub-Saharan Africa by 2034, according to an economic report by the GSM Association (GSMA).

However, the industry organization, which represents the interests of mobile network operators, believes the economically-critical spectrum -- and the 5G services it will enable -- are under threat due to a territorial dispute triggered by the space industry.

"We can't let misinformation and the overly protectionist attitudes of the space industry derail the 5G revolution," says Brett Tarnutzer, head of spectrum at GSMA. "Over-stringent protection will limit the spectrum needed for 5G and have huge consequences for society. This could put the economic and innovation bonanza accompanying ultra-fast networks on hold for a generation."

The GSMA claims in a press statement that some in the space industry "are determined to limit mobile use of airwaves that 5G requires to reach its full potential. This protectionist attitude is ringing alarm bells throughout the mobile communications world," it adds.

The GSMA is lobbying ahead of the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19), taking place from October 28 to November 22, which will see 3,000 delegates from more than 190 nations meeting in Egypt to agree on how spectrum will be used.

Overall the GSMA believes releasing 5G mmWave capacity will create $565 billion of economic expansion globally -- which is 2.9% of global GDP growth. Developing economies were singled out in the new GSMA report and besides Sub-Saharan Africa the report predicts that South East Asia will likely see a $45 billion rise in GDP and Latin America will benefit by $20.8 over the next 15 years.

The GSMA says the benefits from the use of 5G mmWave spectrum will be felt across industries like energy production, transportation, professional services, mining and healthcare. It raises serious concerns that without adequate support at WRC-19, the deployment of these essential 5G services may be delayed for up to a decade.

"Billions of citizens are counting on more innovation and more investments in their future economic prosperity to improve their lives. The benefits of 5G are truly global and the outcome of this fight matters to us all," Tarnutzer adds.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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