The Communications, Space & Technology Commission (CST) has issued its ‘3-year Outlook for Commercial and Innovative Use of the Spectrum in Saudi Arabia.’ The spectrum outlook is part of the National Spectrum Strategy, which aims to unlock the potential of radio spectrum in Saudi Arabia for a smarter and safer future by 2025.
CST has allocated or improved access to more than 23 GHz of spectrum for a wide range of uses, of which 4 GHz will be licensed, 6.2 GHz will be license-exempt, and more than 13 GHz will be lightly licensed. CST is also actively monitoring other potential frequency bands for further future releases.
The reasoning behind the spectrum outlook is to have strategically allocated the additional spectrum in accordance with international best practices, while still taking into account the rapid increase in local data consumption, which will fuel a bigger demand for spectrum in the future. Allocating spectrum for emerging wireless technologies to enable many use cases across different industries and verticals will help Saudi Arabia to build a digital society. CST is adopting a progressive spectrum policy to meet spectrum demand of this wireless proliferation, and enable technologies of the future like 5G, broadband satellite and new generation of WiFi to have fair access to spectrum.
The spectrum outlook is set against a backdrop of a regional 30% to 50% annual increase in mobile data consumption, a figure that will potentially accelerate at a faster rate as 5G and other wireless technologies’ penetration grows. Consequently, CST is planning to allocate licensed spectrum in the bands 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 1,500 MHz, extended 2,100 MHz, 3,800 — 4,000 MHz and 26 GHz frequency bands for mobile use between 2021 and 2023.
As part of the regulatory changes, additional spectrum will be managed through a combination of innovative approaches that will deliver greater sharing and flexible access, including spectrum trading to allow the market to change the ownership and, in some cases, the use of spectrum. In addition, with this spectrum outlook, CST aims to achieve a balance between complementary technologies in cases where the market cannot deliver, monitor spectrum utilization for improved decision-making, and assist innovation by making a variety of bands available for new technologies from trial licenses to shared and short-term access.
The spectrum outlook details Saudi Arabia's path to becoming a global leader in radio-communication and wireless technologies by attracting investments, meeting current data and connectivity demands and proactively anticipating future needs. Correspondingly, CST aims to leverage innovation in spectrum management by expanding its range of resources and services, while ensuring the digital ecosystem is ready to unlock its full potential.
Drafting this outlook followed a transparent and collaborative process that involved public consultation and engagement with more than 65 wireless technology organizations from 20 different countries.