Mid-band spectrum in the C Band is shaping up to be central to 5G, according to a new report.
In a new report on C Band spectrum, the Global mobile Suppliers Association reports that auctions and allocations in the C Band “have come thick and fast over the last couple of years, as regulators have sought to open up access to what has become – initially at least – the most important spectrum band for 5G.”
The GSA looked at the global status of C Band spectrum between 3.3–4.2 GHz, which has been typically used for fixed wireless, satellite or government/military use around the world. That’s a broader swath of mid-band spectrum than the U.S. allocation referred to as the C Band, which consists of 500 megahertz between 3.7-4.2 GHz. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service at 3.5 GHz also falls into the GSA’s C Band category.
The GSA said that since 2015, it identified 23 countries that have “auctioned or allocated C-Band spectrum with the intention of opening up the frequency range for mobile broadband and 5G usage.” Those countries which have already held C Band auctions include Australia, Italy, Germany, Finland, South Korea and the U.K., and France is about to allocate spectrum licenses.
And even more C Band spectrum is coming into use around the world for wireless services, GSA said, with allocations and auctions expected to “grow rapidly in the coming months.” In addition to the French spectrum allocation, GSA identified nearly 30 other countries upcoming auctions or new or additional allocations of mid-band spectrum action, including Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Hungary, Israel, India, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Poland, South Africa, Sweden and the U.K. That list also includes the U.S.’s upcoming CBRS Priority Access License auction set for summer 2020, and GSA noted that it’s possible that other C Band spectrum could come into play in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has indicated plans to auction 280 megahertz of U.S. C Band spectrum in a public auction, although no date has yet been set for such an auction.
In the Middle East, the Arab Spectrum Management Group recently decided to release spectrum at 3.3-3.8 MHz or 3.4-3.8 MHz, depending on the country — so additional allocations are expected in that region as well.
The FCC is currently in the midst of its third recent auction of millimeter wave spectrum, which resumes today after bidding was paused for the holidays. A separate GSA report recently found that millimeter wave spectrum is also gaining global usage.