Qualcomm identifies gigabit LTE and 5G as ‘mega technology trends’
As the 3GPP continues work on the standalone variant of the 5G New Radio standard, which is tracking for release mid-2018, the telecom industry is poised for gearing up for rapid commercialization. A big part of delivering on 5G’s primary use cases–enhanced mobile broadband, massive internet of things support and mission critical communications–is using the right spectrum for a given service. So which spectrum bands will support 5G? In short, almost all of them.
“We’re on a path here for 5G, and also for gigabit LTE,” Dean Brenner, Qualcomm SVP for government affairs, told RCR Wireless News during Mobile World Congress Americas. “Those are the two mega technology trends that are in the wireless industry…and there’s spectrum implications for both.”
For gigabit LTE, which is in some phase of testing or deployment by the four major U.S. carriers and dozens of more around thew world. Brenner pointed out the key role of Federal Communications Commission approval related to use of unlicensed spectrum for bolstering LTE network capabilities–essentially operators are able to augment licensed spectrum holdings with unlicensed frequencies to create a bigger data pipe through carrier aggregation. The other piece, Brenner said, is the recent 600 MHz auction, which T-Mobile US is already commercializing as TV broadcasters move out of those airwaves. “The auction ended just five months ago. From a Qualcomm point of view, we’ve been able to commercialize the spectrum more quickly than we’ve ever commercialized a band ever before.”
So, in terms of delivering of 5G and its use cases, what’s the right spectrum mix?
“We’re going to see this play out,” Brenner said. “I don’t think it’s a scientific formula as to the right mix. The key from a spectrum point of view is to make sure there’s low-, mid- and high-band spectrum available and available in a steady stream. The operators have the financial wherewithal to both acquire the spectrum and deploy it. Back to my two mega-trends–in terms of 5G, you will see spectrum that’s used both in the sub-6 GHz range and in the millimeter wave, the very high-band, spectrum.”
Back to T-Mobile’s early 600 MHz deployments–the carrier says it will use those newly acquired licenses to deliver nationwide 5G. “They’ve deployed in places where TV stations don’t have to move off the spectrum. But, in many places around the country, there are TV stations on the spectrum. It will take them about 39 months to move off the spectrum. As that process plays out you will see the spectrum go into use. That matches up pretty nicely with 5G. We’re going to be enabling the launch of 5G in the 2019 timeframe.”
That’s the low-band piece. “Moving up,” Brenner said, “we have the 3.5 GHz band here in the United Staes, and it’s a key band around the world. You will see wide-scale deployments of 5G there. Up in the millimeter wave range, here in the united states the FCC led the way with their Spectrum Frontiers decision a year ago. Since then we’ve seen other regulators around the world moving up.”