FCC Eyes Mid-Band Spectrum for 5G

The FCC initiated an inquiry into ways to expand opportunities for next-generation wireless broadband services in mid-band spectrum. Previous efforts have focused on the bands below 3.7 GHz and above 24 GHz. Now, the agency is reviewing spectrum bands between 3.7 and 24 GHz. Small cells have neutralized the disadvantages of its short range and poor indoor penetration. It offers a large amount of capacity which, in many markets, is underused – or can be converted to mobile use by adapting current fixed wireless licenses, experts believe.

The Notice of Inquiry seeks comment on three specific mid-range bands (3.7-4.2 GHz, 5.925-6.425 GHz, and 6.425-7.125 GHz), and asks commenters to identify other non-federal mid-band frequencies that may be suitable for expanded flexible use on both a licensed or unlicensed basis.

“We have looked high. We have looked low. Today, we look in the middle,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at yesterday’s meeting. She noted the NOI asks for input on how users would protect incumbent users of the bands.

Her colleague, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, said many countries (in Europe, Japan, Korea and China) are focusing on mid-band spectrum to deploy 5G, and it’s important for the U.S. not to be left behind in this arena.

A group of licensed and unlicensed equipment manufacturers and wireless service providers applauded the move. “Mid-band spectrum frequencies offer a unique balance of coverage and capacity, and countries around the world are in particular targeting these mid-band frequencies for licensed and unlicensed applications. If sufficient bandwidth can be secured, mid-band spectrum can accommodate the latest technologies to deliver multi-gigabit speeds and performance for a new generation of wireless services and use cases, while accelerating 5G commercial availability and economic opportunity in the United States,” say coalition members AT&T, Broadcom, Cisco, Comsearch, CTIA, Ericsson, Google Inc. and Alphabet Access, HPE, Intel Corporation, Information Technology Industry Council, Nokia, Samsung, T-Mobile, Verizon, and WiFi Alliance.

Published August 4, 2017

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