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If you are involved in the international wireless sector, October 2019 had a particular significance: WRC-19, the United Nations intergovernmental conference on spectrum management and satellite orbits commenced after four years of intensive preparation. 5G, broadcasting, satellite, wireless microphone, radio astronomy, earth observation, amateur radio, railway communication, and high-altitude platform interests are jostling throughout November in attempts to negotiate their future resources.

We may look back on this as the “5G WRC” era because of how much it dominates current thinking. In the month, 5G continued to raise questions in technology, investment demand, marketing, consumer acceptance, and inevitably, geopolitics. Expenditure burdens, particularly spectrum itself, sat heavily on thinking. We wondered if high auction prices will mean lower network investment and pricing impact on consumers. No one really knows the consumer dimension of this investment either, it seems.

As if to emphasize the point, in Hong Kong, incumbents praised “reasonable” 3.5GHz auction conditions, although the 4.9GHz auction a few days later saw some bidders withdraw. Singapore, ever mindful of the benefits of market competition, refined spectrum plans to allow all its major operators to rollout services.

Experts asked if 5G can distinguish itself. One study advised players to focus on clusters of use-cases to increase chances of success. Consumer fixed wireless could be a winner as well and saw continuing enthusiasm in the Philippines. Some think service assurance in 5G will be key, and there are indications that wireless network quality has already improved because of 5G.

Various issues emerged. Commentators asked how should blockchain and 5G work together in a shared economy. 5G activity outside our windows will be noticeable, with a predicted 14 times more street-level base stations in 2025 compared to 2017. 5G service outages were worrying some in prospect. Should mobile operators diversify? There may be handsome returns. In the U.S., we hailed the arrival of CBRS.

Even without WRC, geopolitics certainly continued to overhang 5G procurement in Asia during the month. New rules appeared in the U.S., and in October, some wanted scorecards on leadership in patents for the technology. Apart from 5G, we asked what’s new in the era of Wi-Fi 6 and saw predicted takeaways and trends.

Progress, it seems, always has consequences. In the heat of technological promise, when there will be more of (more or less) everything, we reflected on the growing issue of e-waste and what to do about it.

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