The global terrestrial mobile broadband data traffic is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 45% in the coming years, which represents a tenfold increase between 2016 and 2022. This increase is driven largely by the adoption of mobile video streaming. On top of that, the Internet of Things (IoT) is shifting from vision to reality. The 29 billion connected devices by 2022 are expected to include 18 billion IoT or machine-to-machine (M2M) devices. Subsequently, the future mobile networks will need to support new challenging and new use cases, which will demand more spectrum in ever higher frequency ranges.
GSA member companies are investing heavily in research and developments in relation to 5G technologies and networks. Results of these efforts are underway on a global basis in response to national and regional strategic initiatives. Therefore, it is regarded as essential for policy makers to lay down rules while supporting early access to radio frequency spectrum resources with the aim of providing necessary clarity for deployments of terrestrial 5G systems, which are already on the way in some countries and are emerging in others.
Availability of spectrum is a key requirement to enable testing and early 5G deployment before 2020, therefore both higher and lower frequencies are needed now to meet the need of trialing relevant 5G use cases.
Lower 5G bands for early deployments
Due to its favorable properties, such as radio wave propagation and available bandwidth, GSA is of the view that the bands in the ranges 3300 – 4200 MHz and 4400 – 4990 MHz will be the primary spectrum bands between 1 GHz and 6 GHz for the introduction of 5G.
Parts of the band 3300 – 4200 MHz and 4400 – 4990 MHz are being considered for first trials and introduction of 5G services in a number of countries and regions in the world, including: -
Europe 3400 – 3800 MHz (awarding trial licenses)
China 3300 – 3600 MHz (ongoing trial), 4400 – 4500 MHz, 4800 – 4990 MHz
Japan 3600 – 4200 MHz and 4400-4900 MHz
Korea 3400 – 3700 MHz
USA 3100 – 3550 MHz (and 3700 – 4200 MHz)
In Europe, Germany and France have recently signaled in their public consultations their willingness to auction this spectrum for 5G. In Ireland, ComReg published an Information Memorandum for the forthcoming award of spectrum rights of use for the 3.4 – 3.8 GHz frequency band. In Italy, the telecom regulator has published their proposed auction rules for the 3.6 – 3.8 GHz band and in Spain the regulator has provided information on their refarming activity regarding the 3.6 – 3.8 GHz band and their intention to tender it for MFCN according to market and operators’ needs.
Higher 5G bands for early deployments
Spectrum harmonization remains important for the development of 5G, and even more important for higher frequencies in order to support the development of a new ecosystem as well as the deployment of very advanced antenna systems.
Korea is introducing the prospect of an early pre-commercial 5G trial during the PyeongChang 2018 winter Olympic games. This activity is ongoing in preparation for an early 5G demonstrator in PyeongChang, Seoul and in other Korean locations.
The USA has adopted new rules to enable rapid development and deployment of next generation 5G technologies and services in licensed spectrum in the band 28 GHz, but also in the range of 38 GHz.
Japan will be deploying its first commercial 5G network to meet agreed international technical specifications for the 2020 summer Olympic games in Tokyo with a larger-scale field trial through 2018 and 2019.
China is also targeting to deploy commercial 5G networks to meet the demands for the extremely high peak data rates in the ranges 26 GHz and 42 GHz.
In Europe the range 26 GHz has been identified as a 5G pioneer band and work is well underway in order to harmonize the band in Europe for 5G before WRC-19 through adoption of a harmonization decision and to promote this band for worldwide use.
Potential first deployments of higher 5G bands
USA: 27.5 – 28.35 GHz and 37 – 40 GHz pre-commercial deployments in 2018
Korea: 26.5 – 29.5 GHz trials in 2018 and commercial deployments in 2019
Japan: 27.5 – 28.28 GHz trials planned from 2017 and potentially commercial deployments in 2020
China: Focusing on 24.25 – 27.5 GHz and 37 – 43.5 GHz studies
Sweden: 26.5 – 27.5 GHz awarding trial licenses for use in 2018 and onwards
EU: 24.25 – 27.5 GHz for commercial deployments from 2020
Notably the range 24.25 – 27.5 GHz (26 GHz) is overlapping with the band 26.5 – 29.5 GHz (28 GHz), which suggests that countries supporting 26 GHz may also benefit from early ecosystem development for the 28 GHz band in other Regions.
Other bands of interest
In addition, the bands 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1.5 GHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz and 2.6 GHz may be of particular interest for both traditional and new non-traditional applications and are key to deliver necessary 5G broadband coverage for applications such as internet of things (IoT), industry automation, and business critical use cases.
1) Ericsson Mobility Report 2016, November 2016, available at: https://www.ericsson.com/assets/local/mobility-report/documents/2016/ericsson-mobility-report-november-2016.pdf