Internationally there is a growing activity to deliver early 5G trials as well as early commercial service, in some cases based on pre-standard technical specifications. Other countries are working towards agreed international and technical specifications for their 5G deployments. These imperatives are creating increased attention and evaluation of the most suitable spectrum bands to be considered for 5G.
In the USA, the FCC on 14th July 2016 adopted new rules to enable rapid development and deployment of next generation 5G technologies and services. These new rules open up nearly 11 Gigahertz of spectrum in the centrimetric and millimetric bands for flexible, mobile and fixed broadband use. For example, a bandwidth of 3.85 Gigahertz of licensed spectrum in the ranges 28 GHz, 37 GHz and 39 GHz, and a bandwidth of 7 Gigahertz of unlicensed spectrum in the band 64 – 71 GHz. In addition, the 600 MHz band has also been mentioned for 5G deployments, potentially for IoT use in the USA.
Korea is seeking leadership in 5G by introducing the prospect of an early pre-commercial 5G trial during the PyeongChang 2018 winter Olympic games. Several trials are ongoing in preparation for an early 5G demonstrator in Pyeongchang, Seoul and in other Korean locations. The three national mobile service providers are expected to be granted 1 Gigahertz of spectrum within the frequency range 26.5 – 29.5 GHz.
Japan is looking to demonstrate 5G leadership by deploying the first commercial 5G network to meet agreed international technical specifications for the 2020 summer Olympic games in Tokyo. According to the national report “Radio Policies Towards 2020s” published by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) in June 2016, the 3600-4200 MHz, 4400-4900 MHz and the 27.5 – 29.5 GHz frequency ranges have been selected as national suitable candidates for 5G. Meanwhile the national policy makers and regulators are also investigating all bands for 5G that are within the scope of the ITU WRC-19 Agenda Item 1.13. Early system trials for 5G are planned for the ranges 3600 -4100 MHz, 4405-4895 MHz and 27.5-28.28 GHz, starting from 2017 in Tokyo, and continuing as a larger-scale field trial through 2018 and 2019.
China, like Japan, is also taking a leadership role in deploying commercial 5G networks to agreed international and technical specifications. Early 5G trials prior to 2020 are expected to be in the band 3400 – 3600 MHz. In addition, the bands 3300 – 3400 MHz, 4400 – 4500 MHz and 4800 – 4990 MHz are being studied in China. For wider bandwidths, to meet the demands for the extremely high peak data rates, the 25 GHz and 40 GHz bands are also under consideration for possible 5G use.
In Europe, the European Commission has recently released its “5G Action Plan” aimed at aligning roadmaps and priorities for a coordinated 5G deployment across all European Union Member States, targeting early network introduction by 2018, and moving towards commercial large scale introduction by the end of 2020 at the latest. European operators recently announced their target to launch 5G in at least one city in each of the 28 European Union member states by this date. Both RSPG (Radio Spectrum Policy Group) and CEPT (European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations) have identified the band 3400-3800 MHz as the key frequency range for initial 5G rollouts in Europe due to this band’s radio wave propagation properties and the bandwidth availability. The 700 MHz band has also been mentioned for 5G deployments, potentially for IoT use in Europe
As for the higher frequencies, discussions are ongoing within the European Commission and RSPG on the possibility to prioritize the harmonization for one of the lower pioneer bands under ITU-R Resolution 238 (WRC-15) i.e. between 24.25 to 43.5 GHz. Subsequently, the European Commission aims at triggering harmonization work in CEPT for such one pioneer band for Europe.
Considering the complex situation and different circumstances in the countries and regions of the world the GSA Spectrum Group is committed in providing information to support national policy makers and regulators’ decisions in their important effort to promote early and successful 5G deployments through the identification of specific frequency bands to meet the requirements from both enhanced mobile broadband and IoT uses.
The Spectrum Group understands that leading countries are planning first 5G rollouts in bands within the ranges 3300–3400 MHz, 3400–3700 MHz, 3700–3800 MHz, 3800-4200 MHz and 4400–4990 MHz to respond to consumer demands for outdoor-to-indoor communications and to satisfy uses for indoor circumstances and coverage.
Leading countries are also selecting bands within the frequency range 26.5 – 29.5 GHz (28 GHz) for the early deployments of 5G at higher frequencies in response to consumer demands for very high peak data rate to satisfy uses in hot spots and in indoor circumstances. The GSA Spectrum Group believes countries that may not be able to make available 28 GHz for very high peak data rates should consider the range 24.25–26.5 GHz range. We also assign high potential to the range 37.5 – 43 GHz that received wide support during the previous ITU WRC-15 discussions; different portions of spectrum within the 37.0–43.5 GHz range are now being considered for 5G in various regions, for example the range 37–40 GHz has already been decided in the USA, while the band 40.5-43.5 GHz is being explored in Europe.
Finally, for early deployments of IoT and automotive applications, the frequency bands 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 5.9 GHz are candidates for 5G uses.