Andrey Popov -

5G Americas: Mid-band spectrum essential for 5G capacity and coverage

Study reveals how improving access to dedicated, licensed mid-band spectrum for US mobile network operators is the key to seeing further gains for growing 5G industry

Right now, there seems little to stop the march of 5G, with recent research showing the industry is approaching 500 million subscriptions and is set to exceed a 50% share of the total mobile business broadband market by 2027. But a study from 5G Americas has warned that, in the US at least, a long-term national spectrum plan will be paramount for economic and technology growth, and indeed leadership.

The Mid-band spectrum update report from the body, set up to act as the voice of 5G and 4G LTE for the Americas, examines several potential mid-bands and extended mid-bands needed to support applications for 5G and beyond.

Its core issue is that as the key ingredient for wireless technology, radio frequency spectrum is an essential resource. The report stresses that one of the most useful spectrum bands for 5G wass mid-band, which ranges between 1GHz and 6GHz, and offers a balance of speed, capacity, coverage and penetration for cellular wireless networks.

The report offers an overview of current and potential new mid-band and extended mid-band spectrum availability in the US over the next several years, including technical characteristics and challenges, as well as policy and regulatory landscape.

“For 5G deployments, it is important that low-, mid- and high-band spectrum are utilised to provide the optimal experience for users,” remarked 5G Americas president Chris Pearson. “Mid-band spectrum plays a key role in providing both capacity and coverage that can translate to increased speed for applications and use cases.”

Noman Alam, director of 5G solutions at Ericsson, said: “The main challenge to allocation of new mid-band spectrum is that none of the potential bands are clear and without incumbents. Making additional mid-band spectrum available is not an easy path, but it can be made possible with identification of potential bands, planning for incumbents and all of the key stakeholders cooperating in the process.”

Calculating total global demand for mobile network data traffic to be at 90EB (exabytes) per month, and increasing at 40% annually, 5G Americas said new levels of spectral efficiency and flexibility would be required by 5G and future networks. It stressed the need for additional spectrum in the mid-band to be allocated by governments, as it works exceptionally well for densely populated metropolitan areas where connectivity demand is high. It added that mmWave and other high bands would also play a key role in servicing capacity demands, where offloading requirements from the mid-band spectrum can occur when and where needed.

“Mid-band spectrum is key for unlocking new applications and truly delivering on the promise of 5G,” said Karri Kuoppamaki, senior vice-president of network technology development and strategy for T-Mobile US, a firm with a growing 5G offer. “It is essential to have a long-term spectrum pipeline to fuel growth in the 5G ecosystem, and this 5G Americas whitepaper is a good step toward understanding future potential mid-band spectrum opportunities.”

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