An FCC Commissioner is pushing to open up a new 5G radio frequency in the US by the end of 2016, as AT&T gears up to use the spectrum as part of its tests of the next-generation mobile technology this year.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in a speech in Washington, D.C. last week, pushed for the US to move ahead fast with allowing carriers to use 28GHz radio spectrum in order to be first in "the race to 5G." AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has already applied to the agency for an experimental radio license to start testing centimeter wave 28GHz this week. (See AT&T Lights Fire Under 5G, Plans 2016 Trials and AT&T Wants to Start 5G Tests in Austin.)
For 5G, operators are expected look at much higher spectrum bands in order to have access to large swathes of spectrum. The FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has already been pushing for flexible use rules for bands above 24GHz, although opening up spectrum rules in the US can be a slow process. (See FCC Chair Wants to Take 5G Higher.)
Rosenworcel took up the charge, suggesting that -- to stay in ahead in mobile -- the US has to push ahead with a framework for 28GHz usage, even if most of the rest of world isn't going to use that exact band.
"There are some places where when we look high, I believe the United States will need to go it alone," said Rosenworcel. "This includes the 28GHz band."
Rosenworcel isn't deterred by the fact that the 28GHz band hasn't been picked as a global band for 5G:
- Unfortunately, at the World Radio Conference in Geneva last year this band was left off the table. It was not included in the study list for 5G spectrum. But because this band has a global mobile allocation I think the United States should continue to explore this spectrum frontier. Tests in this band are already underway in South Korea and Japan. So I don't think this is the time to hold back. I think we need to move ahead -- on our own -- and have a framework in place for the 28GHz band by the end of the year.
Of course, these are just the comments of one commissioner at the FCC. She doesn't seem to be alone, however, in her desire to speedily open up spectrum for 5G.
"We can -- and must -- enable whatever is 'next' with new spectrum -- including spectrum to assure American leadership in 5G," said Chairman Tom Wheeler in a speech last Thursday to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Telecommunications Act at The Library of Congress in D.C.
The reason for FCC top brass speaking up is the perception that the US led in the transition to 4G but could lose ground as the world moves to 5G in the next decade. The first 5G specification is expected to be ready in 2018 but tests of radio technology are already coming to life.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading