FCC planning millimeter wave spectrum auctions in 2018 and 2019

U.S. operators Verizon and AT&T are planning the commercial launch of 5G networks using millimeter wave spectrum later this year. Elsewhere in the world, operators like Ooredoo Qatar and Elisa in Finland are using the 3.5 GHz band for 5G services. The consensus is that, as 5G develops over time, service providers will need a mix of low-, mid- and high-band frequencies to deliver wide area coverage and multi-gigabit capacity. That point is reinforced in an exhaustive new report from 5G Americas titled “LTE to 5G: The global impact of wireless innovation.”

Peter Rysavy, president of Rysavy Research, prepared the report and commented, “By harnessing new spectrum, such as [millimeter wave]bands above 24 GHz, 5G will eventually be able to access more than 10 times as much spectrum than is currently available for cellular operation Furthermore, using radio bands of hundreds of megahertz will result in multi-Gbps throughput capabilities.”

The U.S. Federal Communications is prepping to auction off millimeter wave frequencies beginning Nov. 14. That round will cover frequencies in the 24 GHz and 28 GHz bands. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a blog post, wrote, “These will be the first auctions of high-band spectrum for 5G services, but they won’t be the last. Specifically, I’m excited to announce my plan to move forward with a single auction of three more millimeter wave spectrum bands—the 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands—in the second half of 2019.  To help facilitate that auction on this timeline, I’m proposing rules to clean up the 39 GHz band and move incumbents into rationalized license holdings.  This will help make the 39 GHz band as attractive as possible for new bidders, while consolidating incumbent spectrum licenses into more usable blocks.”

In his report, Rysavy calls out all of those bands as well as 64 GHz to 71 GHz, which he describes as “Available for unlicensed use with same Part 15 rules as existing 57-64 GHz band.”

He writes: “3GPP is specifying 5G NR to be band-agnostic. 5G will use low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum. 3GPP Technical Services Group – Radio Access Networks (TSG-RAN) agreed to a process of efficiently adding LTE/NR band combinations and carrier-aggregated NR/NR band combinations. See the appendix section, “Spectrum Bands (3G to 5G),” for a listing of 5G bands. Just as it has done with LTE, over time, 3GPP will specify additional 5G bands spanning multiple frequencies.”


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