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Spectrum pricing in developing countries

To deliver affordable, widespread and high-quality mobile broadband services, mobile operators require affordable and predictable access to sufficient radio spectrum. Well-designed spectrum policy is therefore a critical input for a thriving digital economy. The right spectrum pricing policies can help enhance consumer and social welfare in developing countries. Policies that seek to maximise state revenues, however, can have a negative influence on consumer outcomes, including more expensive mobile services and reduced network investment.

To understand the trends and potential impacts of spectrum prices on mobile market outcomes, we examined more than 1,000 spectrum assignments across 102 countries (including 60 developing and 42 developed countries) between 2010 and 2017. The research focuses on trends in spectrum prices and reserve prices; links between spectrum prices and the macro-economic environment; and the potential impacts of high spectrum prices on mobile users. Supported by country case studies across several regions, the report shows how higher spectrum prices can lead to more expensive, lower quality mobile broadband services, highlighting the trade-off that exists in spectrum policy when trying to achieve both public financing and consumer welfare objectives.

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