2020 should be the “Year of Mid-Band” in the United States. So says CTIA. Association President Meredith Attwell Baker and SVP Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergmann, met with several FCC Commissioners, including Chairman Ajit Pai, last week on behalf of members like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.
They said the agency should auction 350 megahertz of mid-band spectrum this year (70 megahertz of 3.5 GHz CBRS and 280 megahertz of 3.7- 4.2 GHz or C-band) and begin new initiatives to introduce additional licensed mid-band spectrum into the U.S. Auctioning 350 megahertz of mid-band spectrum in 2020 will keep us competitive with where other nations are today. In the first six months of 2019, 30 of the 36 5G deployments launched in other nations relied on mid-band spectrum.
The 6 GHz band is a unique opportunity to enable new unlicensed and licensed services, and the Commission should take a balanced approach to the 1,200 megahertz in this band says CTIA. The association says the agency should issue a Further Notice on licensing the upper portion for 5G. This can be done “without delaying action on unlicensed spectrum in the lower portion of the band, subject to adoption of an effective interference protection and enforcement regime,” notes the association in a filing describing the meetings.
Baker and Bergmann called the move to free-up mid-band spectrum a global imperative. CTIA Monday issued a study comparing spectrum released in 14 countries that illustrates the U.S. mid-band spectrum challenge and underscores the importance of American policymakers moving quickly to bring more licensed mid-band spectrum to power 5G networks.
“We need 350 MHz of spectrum auctioned in 2020,” said Baker. “America’s national spectrum strategy—FCC Chairman Pai’s 5G Fast Plan—has been instrumental to date, and I’m confident we’ll make more licensed spectrum available to continue successfully building the U.S. 5G economy.”
Analysys Mason looked at spectrum released between 2017 and 2020, as well as the licensing approach used for each band, and key findings from the benchmarked countries include:
- While nearly all spectrum in other countries has been made available on an exclusively licensed basis, the U.S. is an “outlier” in the amount of unlicensed and shared spectrum being made available.
- The U.S. is the only country that has released mid-band spectrum in the 3 GHz range on a shared or unlicensed basis.
- European countries are making only the lower part (5.925-6.425 GHz) of the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use.
- Following U.S. leadership on high-band, most countries have begun to make or will make a significant amount of high-band spectrum available.
- With the 600 MHz auction, the U.S. was one of the first countries to release low-band spectrum suitable for 5G.
“Our research shows that other countries are currently more fully committed to the licensed spectrum playbook that made the U.S. the 4G global leader,” said Janette Stewart, a Principal with Analysys Mason and the lead author of the report. “More licensed spectrum, particularly in the mid-band, is critical if the U.S. wants to maintain its wireless leadership.” The full study is available here.