North America is currently one of the most developed 5G markets globally, with mobile 5G subscriptions estimated at 20.9 million, for year-end 2020, equivalent to 3.93% of total mobile subscriptions in the market. In April 2019, Verizon launched the first commercial mobile 5G network in North America, a move that was soon followed by AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the US. Canadian telcos Bell, Rogers, and Telus launched commercial mobile 5G services in June 2020.
Latin America, meanwhile, lags substantially behind in terms of 5G deployments. Despite several operators having already engaged in 5G network trials, most of the 5G-related announcements so far correspond to small-scale network launches.
Governments across the Americas should develop a conductive regulatory environment in order to unlock 5G’s ambitious potential. There is demand for improved and supportive regulations and policies ensuring: efficient spectrum resources in the mix of 5G-usable frequency bands; supportive regulatory environments for network sharing; and certainty on 5G security requirements and procedures.
Regulatory frameworks needed for 5G in North America
Successful 5G developments will need clear and supportive regulatory frameworks for mobile infrastructure sharing. The need for denser networks will drive network costs up and motivate network sharing deals. Regulators should assess such deals on transparent and clear criteria – e.g., coverage improvement, cost, and environmental impact reduction – while ensuring these do not affect competition (especially for the non-participant MNOs).
Although most Latin American operators have not yet issued specific infrastructure sharing regulations for 5G networks, this would help to speed up the roll out of 5G services.