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Shedding Light on 5G Policy

Shedding Light on 5G Policy

There are wider factors shaping the future communications environment than just the mobile manufacturers and operators. The environment that they exist in is increasingly shaped by regulatory policy that controls mergers, obligations, prices and competition to varying degrees. And as I discussed in the first part of this article (Intermedia, April 2017), there is a strong alternative to cellular communications in Wi-Fi and commercial broadband. Fixed connections are a core part of our communications environment – it has been said that every connection is a mix of wired and wireless – the only variation is where the wires stop. So, for cellular, there is typically a wired connection from the core network to the base station, then wireless after that. Wi-Fi is wired to the router and wireless for the last few metres. As cells get smaller, the wired element gets larger and the wireless smaller.


The world of cellular communications is highly regulated. Access to a key input, spectrum, is controlled by regulators around the world such as the US FCC and the UK’s Ofcom. They often place conditions on licence awards to bring about outcomes such as increased competition or improved coverage. As mobile communications has become part of the critical national infrastructure, regulators and governments have placed increasing pressure on mobile operators to deliver reliability. Equally, governments are keen to see new services roll out in their country and encourage operators to deploy the latest generation of mobile technology via early licence awards, exhortations and in some cases specific policies.

For many regulators, the most important factor is competition, for example with Sharon White, the chief executive of Ofcom saying: "Competition is the lifeblood of today’s telecoms market, spurring innovation, better coverage and fair prices. Just as President Hoover observed: 'Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.'"

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