6 GHz band proposed for WiFi/5G in Asia Pacific region, but it’s not in ITU-R M.1036
It’s well known that mid-band spectrum is very important in the on-going digital evolution as it strikes a good technical trade-off between coverage and capacity. Without adequate spectrum, ubiquitous 5G connectivity fundamental to the digital economy will not materialize.
In his published paper entitled “Optimizing IMT and Wi-Fi mid-band spectrum allocation: The compelling case for 6 GHz band partitioning in Asia-Pacific,” Scott Minehane called on policymakers, regulators, and mobile network operators (MNOs) in Asia Pacific to allocate adequate mid-band spectrum for both IMT and Wi-Fi services. Findings in this paper were also presented in the ITU Regional Radiocommunication Seminar 2021 for Asia-Pacific.
What Scott failed to mention is that neither WRC or ITU-R WG 5D have approved the use of 6 GHz (C-band spectrum) for terrestrial IMT (3G, 4G, 5G) as that band is NOT in the proposed revision to ITU-R M.1036. After 4.800-4.990 GHz, the next band in M.1036 is 24.25-27.5 GHz.
In the United States in April 2020, the FCC made a massive 1200 MHz of bandwidth available in this band for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed technologies such as 5G New Radio/ITU M.2150 in unlicensed bands (not an official ITU-R standard).
Nonetheless, here is Minehane’s case for 6 GHz as published earlier this week in Telecom Review Asia:
In Asia, where more than 4.3 billion people reside in areas subject to monsoons and frequent heavy rainfall, C-Band spectrum is crucial as it is not susceptible to rain attenuation. However, with C-Band being the preferred spectrum widely used by satellite operators in the region, many countries do not have enough 3.5 GHz band to allocate to mobile operators in order to support advanced 5G and future 6G deployments.
As mobile data consumption surge in populous capital cities such as Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, and Phnom Penh, there is a real threat that spectrum demand would outstrip spectrum supply in the near future. In fact, the GSMA has projected that countries require 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum over the next decade to deliver the full potential of 5G networks.
With spectrum demand on the rise, and competition for frequency bands intensifying, the 6 GHz band has been identified as the ideal substitute for 3.5 GHz because of its good propagation properties and large contiguous bandwidth of 1200 MHz. Comparatively, mmWave is an ill fit in the region as rain attenuation results in significant path loss. Commercially, utilizing 6 GHz for 5G deployment is also more viable (then mmWave) as capex and opex costs are foreseen to be much lower.
Noting that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for the 6 GHz band allocation in a heterogeneous region like the Asia Pacific, Minehane said, “The key is having a customized approach for the 6 GHz band in the Asia Pacific, where emphasis is placed on the early partitioning of the 6 GHz band between IMT and Wi-Fi, as this is the largest remaining single block of spectrum which could be allocated for mobile services in the mid-band.”
Partitioning of the 6 GHz band for IMT and Wi-Fi would balance competing demands for spectrum. To secure the short- and long-term economic benefits of both services, Minehane proposed allocating 500 MHz of the lower 6 GHz band (5925-6425 MHz) for Wi-Fi and 700 MHz of the upper band (6425-7125 MHz) for IMT.
“Making about 700 MHz of 6 GHz spectrum available for IMT services is a good start towards future-proofing 5G advanced and 6G services. Moreover, adequate IMT spectrum fosters healthy competition in the sector, where say 3 to 4 providers prioritize delivering superior customer services and experiences to differentiate themselves,” said Minehane. “From an economic perspective, IMT services also generate greater benefits than Wi-Fi services.”
Amid uncertainties in how new technologies unravel in the long-term, diversification of the 6 GHz band offers flexibility in future decision-making. Apart from addressing the spectrum demands set out by the GSMA, Minehane recommended making provision for more IMT spectrum as it offers the flexibility to be upgraded to the future 6G or switched to Wi-Fi. However, switching from unlicensed Wi-Fi use to licensed IMT uses will be impossible owing to the proliferation of user-based equipment.
Minehane noted that allocating the entire 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi to bridge the digital divide is futile, as low band spectrum is most suited to deliver connectivity to the underserved in rural areas.
Besides, better, faster, and more secure experiences with 4G or 5G, compounded with more affordable, unlimited data plans result in consumers using less Wi-Fi and data offloading. In South Korea, for instance, about 52% of mobile data traffic was handled by 5G. In Canberra, supported by Australia’s largest free public Wi-Fi network, Wi-Fi usage declined sharply when prices in mobile data dropped even during the pandemic. Similarly, enterprises are likely to rely more on 5G than Wi-Fi 6.
Effective spectrum management is instrumental to economic recovery, growth, and resilient. One of the biggest challenges regulators face is the refarming of spectrum to tap onto the potential of emerging innovations. To this end, regulators need to formulate a long-term spectrum roadmap and strategy to chart progress. Another challenge is keeping spectrum auctions affordable, so that operators can invest in upgrading network infrastructure.
Despite these prevailing challenges, Minehane stressed that collectively, the region is forward-looking. Individual countries are stepping up on initiatives and engaging in ongoing dialogues to discuss spectrum management approaches. The 3GPP has also embarked on standardization work to grow the 6 GHz band ecosystem.
Concluding, Minehane expressed hopes that policymakers would increase IMT spectrum allocations and maximize the value created by key spectrum in the years and decades to come.
Addendum: 14 Oct 2021 Email from Joanne Wilson, Deputy to the Director ITU Radio Communications Bureau (ITU-R) who spoke at SCU:
“ITU-R Recommendations are voluntary (non-binding) unless they, or parts thereof, have been incorporated by reference (IBR) into the Radio Regulations. Rec ITU-R M.1036 has not been incorporated by reference into the Radio Regulations and its implementation is voluntary. As a recommendation that addresses the frequency arrangement for an application (not a service!), there would be no context under which M.1036 would be considered for IBR. Still, M.1036 is one of the most heavily debated recommendations because most countries follow it as the basis for their subsequent domestic rulemakings.”
5 thoughts on “6 GHz band proposed for WiFi/5G in Asia Pacific region, but it’s not in ITU-R M.1036”
In addition to 6 GHz, two other non-M.1036 frequency bands have been proposed for 5G
1. L-band “approved” by 3GPP: Band 24 (1.5 GHz and 1.6 GHz)
2. 12 GHz by FCC
Email from Joanne Wilson, Deputy to the Director ITU Radio Communications Bureau (ITU-R):
ITU-R Recommendations are voluntary (non-binding) unless they, or parts thereof, have been incorporated by reference (IBR) into the Radio Regulations. Rec ITU-R M.1036 has not been incorporated by reference into the Radio Regulations and its implementation is voluntary. As a recommendation that addresses the frequency arrangement for an application (not a service!), there would be no context under which M.1036 would be considered for IBR. Still, M.1036 is one of the most heavily debated recommendations because most countries follow it as the basis for their subsequent domestic rulemakings.
I read your blog post on the 6 GHz band with keen interest.
Unfortunately, it is misleading by stating that somehow I missed something that ought to have been included in WPC’s paper on the 6 GHz band. I would reject that notion as the paper itself recommends for the Asia-Pacific region to move forward on the 6 GHz band in advance of WRC-23.
To explain – the normal procedure of revising ITU M.1036, is that following a frequency band being identified at a WRC, it will be included in M.1036 AFTER such an identification.
For example, the current in-force revision M.1036-6 (10/2019) does not include the 26 GHz band. Yet 26 GHz was identified in WRC-19. In the ongoing revision of M.1036, the 26 GHz, 40 GHz, and other bands identified at WRC-19, are included in draft Recommendation, and will be released in the next revision.
M.1036 just provides reference for the frequency arrangement of identified IMT bands. It does not preclude a country from using the band which is not included in M.1036. The 26 GHz band is still only included in the draft revision of M.1036, but there are many countries releasing the band. Likewise I note that C-band IMT frequencies noted in M.1036 are only from 3.3-3.7 GHz when many countries have allocated to 3.8 GHz (n78) or indeed 4.2 GHz (n77).
28 GHz is another example should also be noted. The USA and South Korea decided to use the 28 GHz band for IMT before WRC-19. But there is no IMT identification on 28 GHz band.
So finally, if the 6 GHz band was identified at WRC-23, it would surely will be included in one of the future versions of M.1036. I hope that clarifies things for you and your readers.
Hello Scott and thanks very much for your comment. Let me point out that 6GHz is NOT the only proposed 5G frequency not in the current or incomplete revision to ITU-R M.1036. 12 GHz is another as per these articles:
WRC 19 identified the frequency bands 24.25-27.5 GHz, 37-43.5 GHz, 45.5-47 GHz, 47.2-48.2 and 66-71 GHz for the deployment of 5G networks, and they were added to the unapproved revision 6 of M.1036 by ITU-R WP5D in early 2020. As agreement on that revision was not achieved at ITU-R WP5D’s Oct 2021 meeting the topic has been deferred to 5D’s Oct 2022 meeting. For M.1036 to be approved in late 2022, 5D agreement must be reached in Oct 2022 and sent to ITU-R SG 5 meeting in Nov 2022 for final approval (SG5 meets once per year in Nov).
So currently, there are no mmWave bands approved for 5G (ITU-R M.2150). Here is an email from Joanne Wilson, Deputy to the Director ITU Radio Communications Bureau (ITU-R) who says that while M.1036 is voluntary for telecom regulators, most countries follow it as the basis for their subsequent domestic rulemakings.
“ITU-R Recommendations are voluntary (non-binding) unless they, or parts thereof, have been incorporated by reference (IBR) into the Radio Regulations. Rec ITU-R M.1036 has not been incorporated by reference into the Radio Regulations and its implementation is voluntary. As a recommendation that addresses the frequency arrangement for an application (not a service!), there would be no context under which M.1036 would be considered for IBR. Still, M.1036 is one of the most heavily debated recommendations because most countries follow it as the basis for their subsequent domestic rulemakings.” Joanne Wilson
Again, 6GHz is not included in ITU-R M.1036 frequency arrangements nor was it approved for IMT at WRC 19. The highest M.1036 frequency band is 4,800-4,990 MHz.
Qualcomm, Plume, Nokia, Google, others signal interest in 6GHz management, by Mike Dano
Roughly a dozen companies told the FCC they would like to coordinate usage of the US’s newly open 6GHz band.
The news signals the growing interest in transmissions in the unlicensed 6GHz band, as well as the growing number of companies contemplating the market for spectrum usage and management.
Moreover, the development helps to solidify the notion that spectrum can be shared by multiple users in an organized way. After all, the FCC’s plan to allow private companies to operate Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) systems in the 6GHz band is designed to support standard-power transmissions that won’t interfere with existing 6GHz users, such as those already using the band for cell site backhaul or radio astronomy.
Some of the companies that filed applications with the FCC to become AFC operators in the 6GHz band include Qualcomm, Plume, Wi-Fi Alliance, Amdocs, Federated Wireless, Key Bridge Wireless, Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), Nokia, Kyrio (a subsidiary of CableLabs), Sony, Red Technologies, CommScope, Broadcom and Google.
Many of the 6GHz AFC applicants already manage similar spectrum-usage systems for the 3.5GHz CBRS band, including Federated, Key Bridge, Google, Red and others.
Regulators at the FCC voted last year to allocate the entire 6GHz band for unlicensed operations, including Wi-Fi. The band supports two types of operations: standard-power operations and indoor, low-power operations. Indoor Wi-Fi providers – which do not require AFC systems – have already begun releasing 6GHz devices into the market.
The FCC’s vote represented a setback to some players like Ericsson, Verizon and T-Mobile that had urged the commission to set aside some or all of the 6GHz band for licensed uses, including 5G.
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