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CMS Expert Guide to 5G regulation and law

A global overview


The 2021 edition of the CMS expert guide to 5G regulation and law study includes summaries of some of the key 5G-related regulatory positions underway in over 30 markets. It covers new topics such as network sharing and equipment providers’ limited access to selected geographical markets owing to alleged cyber-security matters.

Scroll down to select and compare the jurisdictions of more interest to you.

At the start of a New Year, most people agree that 5G will change our lives for the better. Unlike earlier mobile generations, 5G will not only mark a radical change in the way we communicate (low latency, substantive growth in system capacity, ultra-high reliability and gigabit speeds), but drive a fundamental shift in the way we live.

Through its significantly improved performance characteristics, 5G is the first mobile technology truly able to extend the reach of broadband wireless services. With the GSMA foreseeing 25 billion connected devices by 2025, 5G will power the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as critical infrastructure applications across sectors.

Many potential use cases – like smart factories and cities, driverless cars, augmented reality and 3D videos and remote health care – supported by 5G, will transform our society. Digital transformation across industries should yield significant economic benefits and efficiencies, while improving leisure time and providing upgraded digital content and experiences.

Network investment, and emerging legal angles

To make the most of these advances, telcos must resolve challenging legal problems linked to the requirements for greater investment.

Some predict that 5G infrastructure alone will cost operators some USD 200bn a year globally in the medium term. This represents a very significant capex for already highly-leveraged telecom carriers, which are increasingly requiring third party funding from infrastructure funds, private equity and other corporate venture capital.

After the roll-out phase, and in connection with it, these investors are asking for their capex to be monetised - and this is proving to be difficult. Such a significant investment should have clear revenues to justify it. The study shows that in most jurisdictions, 5G is not being monetised in B2C services. Indeed, it is being marketed at approximately the same price as 4G services, or together with them, in the context of non standalone 5G networks. Therefore, the main monetisation effort should be in B2B services, for industrial, health and logistics purposes, among others.

The characteristics of 5G networks are different to those of previous generations, requiring more spectrum and small cells, as well as a far greater dependency on fibre networks and subsea cables.

Legal issues and challenges are set to involve likely requirements for network sharing (whether of passive, active or radio access elements), and the use of innovative infrastructure models such as spectrum sharing or network slicing within individual operators’ spectrum.

Nuances across jurisdictions

Despite the global move to 5G, its deployment will be neither immediate nor homogeneous. According to the GSMA, by 2025 only 14% of mobile communications will harness 5G globally, with 53% using 4G and 29% still connected via 3G. In Europe, by 2025 only 31% of mobile communications will use 5G, while almost half (49%) will still run on 4G - therefore limiting IoT functionality.

Across countries, 5G will develop at different speeds and with different features. There are some common technical parameters; but the same cannot be said for regulation. Therefore, it is critical to identify the differences in 5G regulation among the main jurisdictions in order to develop a roadmap for future deployment.

CMS is ideally placed for this task, thanks to our extensive geographical coverage.

We can provide local expert advice on the changes being made to national legal frameworks in anticipation of the arrival of 5G.

We hope this information will be valuable. We are grateful that the US, Japan, Korea and India are included in the guide, thanks to contributions by law firms Cooley, Atsumi & Sakai, Yulchon, and J. Sagar Associates respectively.

To explore more of our thoughts on 5G, please visit our insight page.

You can also learn more about our Technology, Media and Communications expertise.

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