Canada’s 3.5 GHz spectrum auction raises record US $7.2B

Canada’s 3.5GHz auction ended this week with a total of $7.2 billion (C $8.9B with US $1  = 1.2444 Canadian dollars) in winning bids. Bell Canada (BCE), Rogers Communications and Telus captured roughly 80% of the spectrum offered for sale by Canada’s government.

Out of 1,504 available licenses, 1,495 were awarded to 15 Canadian companies, including 757 licenses to small and regional providers, Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in a statement on Thursday.

The results would boost competition, he added, a reference to Ottawa’s push to open up a market dominated by BCE Inc, Telus Corp, and Rogers Communications Inc, known as the big three.

Canadian consumers have complained of steep wireless bills, which are among the highest in the world, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has asked operators to cut prices by a quarter by 2021.

Preliminary results showed that BCE Inc spent C$2.1 billion, Rogers C$3.3 billion and Telus Corp C$1.9 billion.

The 3500 MHz range frequencies are seen as important to provide 5G wireless services as they carry larger volumes of data over longer distances (than mmWave, for example). Mid-band spectrum also offers faster upload and download speeds and help power everything from smart cities to driverless cars.

Vidéotron, owned by Quebecor Inc, spent C$830 million to expand its geographic footprint in Canada, buying licenses not just in its native Quebec but also in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

The move indicates that Quebecor plans to become a service provider in those areas, said Mark Goldberg, an industry analyst. He noted that the areas where the company did not bid – Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada – both have preexisting strong fourth competitors to the big three.

“They’re prepared to be the fourth service provider… This is showing pretty close to a billion dollars in investment in spectrum,” Goldberg said.

Vidéotron said in a statement that the investment would help the company to “realize its ambition of boosting healthy competition in telecom beyond the borders of Québec.”

Bell, Rogers and Telus said their investments will help to provide reliable 5G services.

The auction, initially set to take place in June 2020 and delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, closed after eight days and 103 rounds of bidding, the government said.

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Xona Partners analyst Frank Rayal noted the Canadian auction clocked in at an average of $1.83 per MHz-POP. The per MHz-POP calculation is applied to most spectrum transactions and reflects the number of people covered compared with the amount of spectrum available, though it can be affected by a wide variety of factors.  Rayal said that’s a record price for mid-band spectrum and far higher than the $0.94 per MHz-POP that U.S. operators paid for similar C-band spectrum in the FCC auction earlier this year.

“Underscoring the Bell team’s goal to advance how Canadians connect with each other and the world, acquiring this significant additional 3500MHz spectrum will drive Bell’s ongoing leadership in 5G, a critical component in our multibillion-dollar program to accelerate investment in Canada’s next-generation network infrastructure and services,” Mirko Bibic, president and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada, said in a press release.

References:

https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/canada-raises-72-bln-via-auction-3500-mhz-spectrum-firms-gear-high-speed-2021-07-29/

 

GSMA Calls for 2 GHz of Mid-Band Spectrum to meet ITU-R speed requirements (explained)

The mobile industry will need an average of 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum this decade to meet the ITU data speed requirements (ITU-R recommendation not stated, but this author believes it to be M.2410 (11/2017)) [1.]. Achieving this will also minimize environmental impact and lower consumer costs of 5G, according to a global study of 36 cities published by the GSMA but carried out by Coleago Consulting.

The “Vision 2030 Insights for Mid-band Spectrum Needs” study suggests that policymakers should license spectrum to mobile operators in harmonized bands, such as 3.5 GHz, 4.8 GHz and, 6 GHz to meet the ITU’s requirements by 2030. Without the additional spectrum, it will be impossible to realise the full potential of 5G in some cases. In others, the number of antennas and base stations needed will lead to higher carbon emissions and consumer prices. The additional spectrum will lower the carbon footprint of networks by two-to-three times while enhancing the sustainable development of mobile connectivity, according to the study.

This spectrum will also make 5G more affordable. Total costs would be three- to five-times higher over a decade in cities where a deficit of 800-1000 MHz would increase the number of base stations needed and increase deployment costs in each city by $782 million to $5.8 billion.

The actual amount of mid-band spectrum required varies significantly by city, mid-band being roughly 1500 MHz-6 GHz. Population density, spread of base stations, availability of small cells and WiFi offload, and 5G activity levels, amongst other things, will have an impact on how much spectrum any given city needs.

Hong Kong tops the list of 36 cities studied by Coleago Consulting with an upper estimate of 3.7 GHz of mid-band spectrum required, while Tehran ranks at the bottom with a requirement of up to 1.2 GHz. As such, the amount of additional spectrum each city needs is also variable. However, the important message is that all cities need more spectrum than they are set to have, and the additional amount required is “far greater” than that currently planned for release, the GSMA said.

“Without the additional spectrum, it will be impossible to realize the full potential of 5G in some cases. In others, the number of antennas and base stations needed will lead to higher carbon emissions and consumer prices,” GSMA warned.

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Note 1.  ITU-R M.2410 data rate requirements for IMT 2020 (11/2017):

Peak data rate: is the maximum achievable data rate under ideal conditions (in bit/s), which is the received data bits assuming error-free conditions assignable to a single mobile station, when all assignable radio resources for the corresponding link direction are utilized (i.e. excluding radio resources that are used for physical layer synchronization, reference signals or pilots, guard bands and guard times). This requirement is defined for the purpose of evaluation in the eMBB usage scenario. The minimum requirements for peak data rate are:
– Downlink peak data rate is 20 Gbit/s.
– Uplink peak data rate is 10 Gbit/s

Peak spectral efficiency: is the maximum data rate under ideal conditions normalized by channel bandwidth (in bit/s/Hz), where the maximum data rate is the received data bits assuming error-free conditions assignable to a single mobile station, when all assignable radio resources for the corresponding link direction are utilized (i.e. excluding radio resources that are used for physical layer synchronization, reference signals or pilots, guard bands and guard times).
This requirement is defined for the purpose of evaluation in the eMBB usage scenario. The minimum requirements for peak spectral efficiencies are:
– Downlink peak spectral efficiency is 30 bit/s/Hz.
– Uplink peak spectral efficiency is 15 bit/s/Hz.

User experienced data rate: is the 5% point of the cumulative distribution function (CDF) of the user throughput. User throughput (during active time) is defined as the number of correctly received bits, i.e. the number of bits contained in the service data units (SDUs) delivered to Layer 3, over a certain period of time.  This requirement is defined for the purpose of evaluation in the related eMBB test environment. The target values for the user experienced data rate in the Dense Urban – eMBB test environment:
– Downlink user experienced data rate is 100 Mbit/s.
– Uplink user experienced data rate is 50 Mbit/s.

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Mid-band spectrum availability also will enhance Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). The study shows that with the additional 2 GHz, five-times more households will be covered with each base station, allowing affordable high-speed internet to reach beyond the fiber footprint at a fraction of the cost.

The World Radiocommunication Conference in 2023 is a crucial opportunity to align global policies for mid-band solutions for mobile. This spectrum will ensure mobile operators can deliver the ITU targets of 100 Mbps download speeds and 50 Mbps upload speeds to meet future needs of consumers and businesses.

Therefore, the GSMA asks that regulators:

  • Plan to make an average of 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum available in the 2025-2030 time frame to guarantee the IMT-2020 requirements for 5G;
  • Carefully consider 5G spectrum demands when 5G usage increases and advanced use cases will carry additional needs;
  • Base spectrum decisions on real-world factors including, population density and extent of fibre rollout; and
  • Support harmonized mid-band 5G spectrum (e.g., within the 3.5 GHz, 4.8 GHz and 6 GHz ranges) and facilitate technology upgrades in existing bands.

“Coordinated regional decisions will lead to a WRC which enables the future of 5G and supports wider broadband take-up by increasing capacity and reducing costs,” the GSMA said.

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References:

https://www.gsma.com/newsroom/press-release/gsma-calls-for-2-ghz-of-mid-band-spectrum-to-meet-un-targets/

https://www.gsma.com/spectrum/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/5G-Mid-Band-Spectrum-Needs-Vision-2030.pdf

https://telecoms.com/510489/lack-of-mid-band-spectrum-could-cost-operators-billions-of-dollars-gsma/

Oxymoron: 3GPP approves Ligado’s L-Band Spectrum for 5G Private Networks

Overview:

Ligado Networks today announced it received approvals from Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) for new technical specifications that will enable its L-band spectrum [1.] to be deployed in 5G networks.

Note 1. L band is the IEEE designation for the range of frequencies in the radio spectrum from 1 to 2 gigahertz (GHz).  Since World War II, radar systems engineers have used letter designations as a short notation for describing the frequency band of operation. This usage has continued throughout the years and is now an accepted practice of radar engineers. Radar-frequency letter designations are used for the following reasons:

1) They provide a convenient method for describing the band in which the radar operates without the need for awkwardly stating the limits of the frequency in numerical terms. For example, it is more convenient to say an L-band radar than a 1215 MHz to 1400 MHz radar. This is especially important in titles of published papers on radar, in advertising of radar systems and components, or in any other situation where a short notation is desired.

2) In military radar systems, the exact frequency of operation cannot usually be disclosed, but it is permissible in many cases to describe the band in which it operates. The letter designations permit this.

3) Each radar-frequency band has its own particular characteristics. Thus an X-band radar will be different from an S-band radar. The letter designations are often used in this manner to indicate the particular nature of the radar as it is influenced by its frequency. There are vast differences in characteristics, applications, and environmental constraints which distinguish radars in the different bands. It is the need to communicate concisely the whole set of characteristics which are shared by S-band radar, as distinguished from L-band radar, C-band radar, and the others, which requires the established usage of letter designations.

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Why is 3GPP “approval” of L-Band an oxymoron?  Because 3GPP specifications have no legal standing and must be transposed by SDOs (like ETSI and ITU-R) before they become de jure standards.  The best example of that were the 3GPP RIT/SRIT submissions to ITU-R WP5D which became the main part of ITU-R M.2150 (previously referred to as IMT 2020 Radio Access Network).

From the 3GPP website under the heading Official Publications:

The 3GPP Technical Specifications and Technical Reports have, in themselves, no legal standing. They only become “official” when transposed into corresponding publications of the Partner Organizations (or the national / regional standards body acting as publisher for the Partner). At this point, the specifications are referred to as UMTS within ETSI and FOMA within ARIB/TTC.

Some TRs (mainly those with numbers of the form xx.8xx) are not intended for publication, but are retained as internal working documents of 3GPP. Once a Release is frozen (see definition in 3GPP TR 21.900), its specifications are published by the Partners.

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How Frequencies get standardized for International Mobile Telecommunications:

IMT frequencies for all the G’s are agreed upon once every four years at the ITU-R WRC.  The last one was WRC 19 in Egypt.  After that, they are sent to ITU-R WP5D for detailed IMT terrestrial frequency arrangements, which are then added to a revision of ITU-R M.1036.  Once that M.1036 revision is approved, it is rubber stamped by ITU-R SG5 which meets once per year in November.

As of the close of last week’s WP5D meeting, there was no consensus on approving the WRC 19 specified mmW frequencies to be used with IMT 2150.   Hence, the revision of M.1036 to include 5G frequencies has not been approved yet.  One WP 5D meeting left to get that done this year prior to SG 5 meeting this November.

Ligado or the ITU-R 3GPP representative (currently ATIS) would have to submit their L-Band frequencies to WP 5D before their October 2021 meeting to get it approved as a frequency band to be used for M.2150 (the official one and only 5G RAN standard).

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Ligado wants to expand the L-Band vendor ecosystem and deploy new mid-band spectrum in 5G networks in the U.S. Ligado is currently developing a 5G Mobile Private Network Solution designed to bring the power of next-generation networks to the energy, manufacturing, health care, transportation, and other critical infrastructure sectors.

“This is a major milestone for us – in an already momentous year – and advances our vision to deploy this spectrum for a range of next-generation services,” said Ligado CEO Doug Smith. “The 3GPP green light gives us what we need to accelerate our commercial ecosystem activities and expand Ligado’s roster of partners to deploy this much-needed spectrum for U.S. businesses and consumers.”

3GPP approvals of Band 24 (1.5 GHz and 1.6 GHz) may encourage vendors to build PRE-STANDARD 5G and LTE products compatible with Ligado’s mid-band spectrum. Ligado has already entered into commercial agreements with multiple 5G base station and chipset vendors. The company has also announced a collaboration with pioneering network operator Rakuten Mobile to showcase its 5G Mobile Private Network Solution, and the companies plan to deploy lab and field trials over the next 12 months.

The items that were approved at this week’s 3GPP plenary meeting include updates to Ligado’s existing LTE Band 24 (1.5 GHz and 1.6 GHz); a new 5G NR Band labeled n24; a new 5G NR Supplemental Uplink (SUL) Band labeled n99; and NR Carrier Aggregation (CA) and SUL band combinations for n24 and n99 with CBRS, C-Band and EBS/BRS spectrum. The approvals of SUL band n99 and band combinations will help facilitate the deployments of L-Band spectrum with other mid-band airwaves like the C-Band, CBRS, and EBS spectrum bands.

“Receiving these 3GPP approvals is a huge springboard to deploy the L-Band in U.S. 5G networks, and we’re excited to have continued support from several industry-leading vendors,” said Chief Technology Officer Maqbool Aliani. “Bringing this additional mid-band spectrum to the 5G market will help the U.S. roll out next-generation deployments more quickly, at lower costs, and with superior network performance.”

Ligado submitted these work items to 3GPP in June 2020 after winning unanimous, bipartisan approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modify its existing spectrum license. In October 2020, the company announced it had successfully raised nearly $4 billion to develop and deploy the L-Band in 5G networks.

For years, it’s been rumored that Ligado wanted to sell its spectrum to the highest bidder, probably a wireless carrier desiring mid-band 5G spectrum. While that hasn’t happened, some still see it as a valuable resource for the Verizon or AT&T.  If T-Mobile or Dish acquired the L-band, they would extend their advantage even further, according to New Street Research analyst Jonathan Chaplin in a September 2020 report.

“The final major step for Ligado will involve getting chipset and radio vendors to incorporate the L-Band into their designs, paving the way for a carrier to deploy the L-Band on towers and small cells and to sell devices that contain L-Band-supporting chipsets,” Chaplin wrote in a report for investors today. “This final leg of the process is likely to take some time, but could be accelerated by the support of a large industry player (one of the carriers), who can more easily encourage their vendors to integrate the spectrum into their equipment.”

Also, several analysts believe that the demand for private wireless networking equipment could eventually double the market for public wireless networks.

About Ligado Networks:

Building on 25 years of experience providing crucial satellite connectivity, Ligado’s mission is to modernize American businesses by delivering the 5G connectivity solutions needed to transform their operations and realize the efficiencies of a digital world. Our plans to deploy licensed mid-band spectrum in public and private 5G networks will help pave the way for future innovations and economic growth across America.

For further information:

Ligado Networks Media Contact:
Ashley Durmer, Chief Communications Officer and Head of Congressional Affairs
Tel: 703-390-2008
Ashley@ligado.com

References:

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/3gpp-approves-band-specifications-of-ligados-l-band-spectrum-for-5g-deployment-301316320.html

https://www.fiercewireless.com/private-wireless/ligado-obtains-3gpp-approvals-for-l-band-5g

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/29086

Busting a Myth: 3GPP Roadmap to true 5G (IMT 2020) vs AT&T “standards-based 5G” in Austin, TX