& cplSiteName &

FCC's Rosenworcel: US 'Falling Behind' on 5G

Iain Morris
7/13/2018
50%
50%

One of the US market's leading regulatory figures has challenged opinion about the country's 5G lead, arguing the US is "falling behind" a host of other nations on the award of the all-important "mid-band" spectrum that 5G services will need. (See The US 5G 'Lead' Over Europe Is Bluster.)

Jessica Rosenworcel, one of five commissioners at the FCC, tweeted her concerns late on Thursday, pointing out that South Korea, the UK, Spain, Italy and China are all ahead of the US on the sale of mid-band airwaves.

"The US is not leading in the race to bring 5G mid-band spectrum to market," said Rosenworcel. "South Korea and the UK held auctions this year. Spain is holding an auction right now. Italy will have an auction later this year. China has already cleared bands for use. The US is falling behind."

Telecom operators will need spectrum across various bands to support the rollout of next-generation 5G technology, which is expected to bring higher connection speeds and lower operating costs than current standards.

In the US, much of the recent focus has been on very high "millimeter wave" spectrum, which is capable of supporting the very highest-speed connections but offers poor wide-area and in-building coverage.

Earlier this week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans for auctions of mmWave spectrum in the 24GHz and 28GHz bands that are scheduled to begin toward the end of this year. (See First 5G-Specific US Spectrum Auctions Coming November.)

Another three mmWave auctions -- addressing spectrum in the 37GHz, 39GHz and 47GHz bands -- are likely to take place in the second half of 2019.

But the lower spectrum ranges have garnered less attention in the US than in other parts of the world, despite their versatility.

The spectrum in any band comes with a trade-off: superfast connections but disappointing coverage in the very highest ranges, against much slower services with excellent signal propagation in the sub-1GHz bands. The mid-band frequencies between 3.3GHz and 4.2GHz are seen as a useful compromise, offering both decent coverage and relatively fast connections.

For that reason, operators in Europe and Asia expect mid-band spectrum to be far more important when they are rolling out smartphone-based 5G services. Indeed, because higher-frequency signals cannot easily penetrate buildings and other obstacles, the mmWave spectrum may never get used outside deployments of 5G as a fixed wireless access (FWA) technology -- whereby mobile is used instead of last-mile fiber to provide broadband services for homes and businesses. (See Orange Ups 5G Broadband Stakes in Romania.)


Zero in on the most attractive 5G NR deployment strategies, and take a look ahead to later technology developments and service innovations. Join us for the Deployment Strategies for 5G NR breakfast workshop in LA at MWCA on September 12. Register now to learn from and network with industry experts – communications service providers get in free!


Aggressive rhetoric from operators has led to a widespread perception that the US is far ahead of Europe in 5G development, but Rosenworcel appears concerned that a shortage of mid-band spectrum could leave her country trailing others in the use of 5G as a mobile technology.

While the FCC this week unveiled plans to free up as much as 500MHz of spectrum between the 3.7GHz and 4.2GHz bands, it has given no indication of the timeframe during which this may happen. (See FCC Proposes Opening More Spectrum for Mid-Band 5G.)

Currently, spectrum in this range is used for satellite services and the FCC is still trying to figure out if it can be reallocated without causing disruption.

"The notice … seeks comment on various proposals for transitioning part or all of the band for flexible use, working up from 3.7GHz, including market-based, auction, and alternative mechanisms," said the FCC in its statement.

US operators do have mid-band airwaves they can use to support 5G, and are freeing up spectrum with the shutdown of older wireless technologies. Yet all have suggested they will need more mid-band spectrum to support their 5G services.

The UK raised £1.4 billion ($1.8 billion) from the sale of airwaves in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands in April, while a South Korean auction of 3.5GHz and 28GHz spectrum generated $3.3 billion in proceeds. (See UK's £1.4B '5G' Auction Looks Bad for Industry and South Korea's 5G Auction Raises $3.3B.)

While not on Rosenworcel's list, Switzerland has also announced plans for a 5G auction that includes spectrum between 3.4GHz and 3.8GHz. That sale will begin next January, with radio licenses due to be awarded by June 2019. (See Switzerland Sets $222M Base Fee in 5G Auction.)

Nevertheless, it is the vast Chinese market -- where hundreds of millions of people now use smartphone services -- that could really spur the development of 5G devices compatible with mid-band airwaves.

China Mobile, the country's biggest operator, this week completed 5G interoperability tests with equipment makers Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) in the C-Band, which covers the 3.3-4.2GHz and 4.4-5GHz ranges. (See China Mobile Taps Huawei & Intel for Interop Testing Ahead of Big 5G Plans.)

A number of industry observers are hopeful the C-Band will emerge as a global mid-frequency range to support spectrum harmonization between different countries and regions.

— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/13/2018 | 10:43:46 AM
Re: Seems like talk
Awesome -- sounds like we need another remake in the Death Race franchise.
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
7/13/2018 | 10:37:58 AM
Re: Seems like talk
Most pedestrian deaths from jaywalking with a VR helmet.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/13/2018 | 10:30:58 AM
Re: Seems like talk
"Falling behind" implies that this is a race of some sort. What's the prize for winning?
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
7/13/2018 | 9:12:33 AM
Seems like talk
How exactly is she or anyone else gonna make the FCC process happen faster?
Featured Video
From The Founder
John Chambers is still as passionate about business and innovation as he ever was at Cisco, finds Steve Saunders.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
September 12, 2018, Los Angeles, CA
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 6, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Telecom Jargonosaurus Part 1: Repeat Offenders
Iain Morris, News Editor, 7/13/2018
Broadcom Buys CA – Huh?
Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading, 7/11/2018
Verizon Taps Malady as Acting CTO
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 7/12/2018
FCC's Rosenworcel: US 'Falling Behind' on 5G
Iain Morris, News Editor, 7/13/2018
Netflix Is Growing, but Don't Ask by How Much
Phil Harvey, US News Editor, 7/16/2018
Animals with Phones
Casual Tuesday Takes On New Meaning Click Here
When you forget your pants.
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed