Regulator to open up mmWave frequencies in 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands

With an auction of millimeter wave frequencies in the 28 GHz band going on current, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in a meeting today, set the rules for a further auction of mmWave licenses in the 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands in 2019.

Key pieces of the FCC auction rules include:

  • The spectrum will be auctioned in 100 megahertz blocks based on Partial Economic Areas to enable a simultaneous auction;
  • The bidding will follow an incentive auction mechanism considering contiguous blocks;
  • And a pre-auction process ” that allows incumbent licensees to rationalize their holdings.”

Between the three mmWave bands, the FCC is opening up a total of 3,400 megahertz of high-band frequencies, which are a key piece of delivering the multi-gigabit-per-second speeds associated with 5G.

Both Verizon and AT&T are going to market with 5G using their mmWave holdings. Verizon has launched a fixed wireless home broadband service that’s live in four markets and plans a mobile offering early next year. AT&T is committed to launching mobile 5G in 12 markets by year-end, followed by expansion throughout 2019.

The current auction, focused on the 28 GHz band, kicked off on Nov. 14 and by Dec. 6 had raised around $600 million. It will be immediately followed by an auction for the 24 GHz licenses.

The U.S. is widely seen as a leader in allocating mmWave spectrum. Globally, many markets are presently focused on mid-band spectrum for 5G, particularly the 3.5 GHz band, which is set aside for shared access in the U.S. The U.K. has divvied up 150 megahertz in 3.4 GHz to 3.6 GHz; Italy has set aside capacity in the 3.6 GHz to 3.8 GHz bands; France has a Q4 auction of 3.46 GHz to 3.8 GHz; Spain auctioned space in the 3.6 GHz to 3.8 GHz, Switzerland has a mid-band auction coming in January next year and Ireland has auctioned 3.4 GHz to 3.8 GHz.

Moving on to China, things are on track to launch 5G in the 3.3 GHz to 3.6 GHz and 4.8 GHz to 5 GHz bands while millimeter wave is “a little further out,” according to Qualcomm’s Dean Brenner.  In Korea, there have already been mid-band and millimeter wave auctions. “Korea really wants to be a major leader in 5G,” he said. “The carriers and the OEMs are ready to go.”

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