China’s regulators allocated spectrum in the 6 GHz frequency band for 5G and 6G services, asserting it was the first country to reserve the resource expected by the mobile industry to enable future connectivity. In a translated statement, the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) highlighted the band was the only one with sufficiently-large bandwidth in the mid-range frequency band.
In a blog published on the opening day of MWC 2023 Shanghai, GSMA head of spectrum Luciana Camargos highlighted China had identified the upper part of the band for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) systems:
“China’s efforts towards the 6GHz band don’t come as a surprise,” Camargos wrote, adding. “Conducive spectrum policies for the mid-bands, especially the 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz, have helped China to deploy the world’s largest 5G networks with over 2.7 million 5G base stations by the end of April 2023 and to be on track to become the first country to reach 1 billion 5G connections in 2025.”
Note: The GSMA has been pushing the case for the use of 6 GHz by the mobile industry ahead of the ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (IRC 23) in Dubai, UAE in November 2023. WRC 19 did not authorize use of the 6 GHz band for IMT and so it is not in ITU-R M.1036 revision 6 “Frequency arrangements for implementation of the terrestrial component of International Mobile Telecommunications in the bands identified for IMT in the Radio Regulations” which specifies all terrestrial IMT frequencies.
During the Ajit Pai administration, the FCC allocated virtually the entire 6 GHz band – 1,200 megahertz stretching across 5.925 GHz–7.125 GHz – for unlicensed uses, primarily Wi-Fi rather than IMT which uses licensed spectrum.
–>Please refer to References below.
The CTIA was alarmed by China’s decision and posted this on Twitter:
BREAKING NEWS: China announces plans to free up far more #5G spectrum than the United States. Congress must restore @FCC auction authority and identify new spectrum to secure our leadership of the industries and innovations of the future.
“We risk having Chinese networks that are materially better at enabling the industries of the future,” wrote Doug Brake, a policy official at CTIA, the U.S. wireless industry’s main trade association. “If a mobile video platform like TikTok is a national security threat, why should we surrender advantage in a technology like 5G that enables transformation throughout the economy?”
“We need a breakthrough on spectrum policy that prioritizes full-power, licensed, midband spectrum for 5G to secure our industries of the future in the face of increasingly capable Chinese networks and the market dominance of Chinese vendors. This requires a coordinated effort, starting with Congress establishing an auction pipeline, NTIA identifying at least 1500 megahertz of licensed midband spectrum for 5G as part of the National Spectrum Strategy,” Brake wrote.
Others countries haven’t yet decided what to do with the band. For example, officials in the UK just this week opened an investigation into the possibility of sharing the 6GHz band between Wi-Fi and 5G users.
“Rather than choosing between the two, we believe an alternative approach is possible. We are exploring options that would enable the use of both Wi-Fi and mobile in the band. We are calling this ‘hybrid sharing,'” wrote regulator Ofcom in a post.
According to Disruptive Wireless analyst Bubley, Ofcom’s proposal isn’t that simple. “This would need new technical mechanisms for networks, devices and databases / sensing, and how to manage and enforce any prioritisations,” he wrote in a new LinkedIn post. “There are various options for automation, dynamic vs. fixed sharing and so on. There may be constraints on power or ‘polite’ protocols. Ideally these would be internationally standardized – perhaps just in Europe, but more broad adoption would obviously be preferable.”
Meanwhile, others continue to urge global regulators to allocate the 6GHz band for 5G. For example, the GSMA – the world’s biggest 5G trade association – recently reiterated its position that 6GHz will be necessary for 5G networks to keep pace with demand.
According to Bubley, the debate will likely come to a head later this year at the ITU-R’s 2023 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-23) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). That’s where global telecom regulators work to harmonize their plans in order to score global economies of scale among equipment suppliers. The result is a set of Radio Regulations which are approved frequencies to be used for IMT and other wireless services.
CTIA commissioned study: U.S. running out of licensed spectrum; 5G FWA to be impacted first by network overloads
5G networks may begin to run out of spectrum capacity within the next five years, according to a new study commissioned by CTIA and done by the Battle Group. Absent any new spectrum, by 2027, the U.S. is expected to have a spectrum deficit of nearly 400 megahertz. In ten years, by 2032, this deficit could more than triple to approximately 1,400 megahertz. To avoid this deficit, work needs to begin now on filling the spectrum pipeline.
The Executive Summary of the report states:
“Mobile data demand is exploding, with aggregate data downloaded quadrupling in the last seven years. New and innovative uses enabled by 5G, as well as the prospect of 6G applications, point towards further increases in expected demand for mobile network capacity. Unfortunately, the U.S. spectrum landscape appears to be stalled, with no clear prospects for significant spectrum reallocations this year and insufficient bands under consideration for reallocation in the coming years. This lack of a spectrum pipeline, coupled with the lapse of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction authority, has raised the prospect of significant capacity constraints in the terrestrial wireless space, and concern that this may limit the U.S.’s ability to be a leader in this area. This paper investigates this capacity constraint and estimates the likely spectrum deficit the U.S. will face over the next decade absent policymakers allocating additional full power, licensed spectrum.”
Source: Battle Group
The Battle Group analysis indicates that additional mobile spectrum allocations are necessary if U.S. wireless networks are to be able to supply enough capacity to meet growing demand. It is infeasible to expect non-spectrum inputs to cover the capacity deficit, even using conservative inputs and under the most optimistic scenarios. With aggressive investment in infrastructure and reasonably expected improvements to spectral efficiency, we estimate that in order to meet demand in five years industry will still require approximately 400 megahertz of spectrum in the next 5 years, and over 1,400 megahertz in ten years. This estimate is normalized to exclusively licensed, wide-area, full-power spectrum, with propagation characteristics of 1-2 GHz. Spectrum with other characteristics would change the analysis—for example, if spectrum were only made available with lower power levels, much more would be required to meet demand.
Recent growth in popularity of fixed wireless access (FWA), which provides home broadband over licensed mobile spectrum, will increase the capacity load on licensed networks. In particular, “Fixed wireless access would likely be the first service to be impacted [by network overloads]. Already today home broadband over 5G is only offered in locations where operators have available capacity in the network to provide sufficient quality of service for a home connection. Without additional spectrum, fixed wireless access will not be able to reach its potential scale, limiting the opportunity for additional competition to be injected into the home broadband market.”
“Our analysis indicates that, given the pace of the demand growth, technological solutions and deploying more cell sites are insufficient to ease the capacity constraint currently facing the US cellular networks,” the report concludes. That conclusion is in stark contrast to FWA capacity assurances from the Verizon and T-Mobile (AT&T has yet to offer 5G FWA). “We’re adding far more capacity to our network than the peak usage increase we’re expecting in the fixed wireless market,” Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg proclaimed earlier this year.
“The report’s findings underscore the growing risk to America’s 5G and innovation leadership,” the CTIA warned, citing the Brattle Group report. “Currently the United States has no plan to allocate more midband spectrum for 5G and Congress allowed the FCC’s ability to auction spectrum for licensed, commercial use, to lapse for the first time in its 30-year history. This inaction in the face of a looming spectrum deficit contrasts with other countries: Today the United States trails other countries in 5G spectrum by 378 megahertz on average – a deficit expected to grow to 518 megahertz in five years.”
“Even accounting for extremely optimistic improvements in spectral efficiency and additional infrastructure deployment, the (Battle Group) analysis makes clear that additional 5G-ready spectrum is the only realistic way to meet projected growth in demand.
“The inability to provide adequate capacity to support projected usage growth would lead to poor customer experience, network overload, and otherwise risk forfeiting U.S. leadership in 5G and beyond,” said Dr. Coleman Bazelon, Principal, The Brattle Group.
“Coleman’s report helps define the risk of continued inaction on spectrum. We need more 5G spectrum to meet increasing data demand, support new innovation and enable the speeds and capacity necessary to fuel future innovation,” said CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker. “We now have a target for future action. More full-powered, exclusive-licensed spectrum is key to both our economic and national security. Letting auction authority lapse sent the wrong signal to the rest of the world. We need to restore it quickly with a defined set of new auctions.”
“Our analysis indicates that, given the pace of the demand growth, technological solutions and deploying more cell sites are insufficient to ease the capacity constraint currently facing the U.S. cellular networks. Spectrum availability is the key to solving the capacity shortfall and Congress, the FCC, and other policymakers should work to allocate more spectrum for licensed mobile uses in a timely manner,” said co-author Dr. Paroma Sanyal, Principal, The Brattle Group.
CTIA said that the U.S. now trails other countries in 5G spectrum by 378 megahertz on average—a deficit expected to grow to 518 megahertz in five years. One of CTIA’s top goals this year is to generate support among lawmakers for rules that would take the 3.1-3.45GHz band from the DoD and reallocate it to 5G network operators.
“Spectrum repurposing is a difficult and time-consuming process, and unfortunately there is not an adequate pipeline of spectrum anticipated to meet wireless demand today. Our analysis gives a glimpse of the stunted wireless future if policymakers do not act,” said Dr. Bazelon.
Another mechanism to increase wireless network capacity involves building more cell sites, including small cells. In its report, the Brattle Group estimated a total of 298,001 macro cell sites in the US in 2022 alongside 150,399 small cells. (Those figures don’t quite dovetail with the 209,500 macrocell sites and 452,200 outdoor small cell nodes counted in a study commissioned by the Wireless Infrastructure Association, the main trade association for the US cell tower industry.) Regardless, the Brattle Group predicts those figures will grow to 324,943 macro cell sites and 364,428 small cells by 2027.
But the report argues that cell site growth won’t keep pace with user’s data demands. “Therefore, if historical technology trends hold and forecasted traffic patterns are realized, these solutions are unlikely to be sufficient to meet rapidly growing traffic,” according to the report.
Therefore, the report concludes that the only way to prevent network overloads is to release more licensed spectrum to 5G network operators – which is CTIA’s main political goal.
“It’s Not Just You: 5G Is a Big Letdown,” is the title of a Wall Street Journal on-line article published today (January 11, 2023). Author Joanna Stern writes:
I turned off Verizon’s red down pointing triangle 5G on my iPhone—and barely noticed a difference. The 4G LTE performance and coverage felt just about the same.
Three years since the U.S. cellular carriers lit up their next-generation networks and promised to change the game, the game hasn’t changed. And if you’re among the millions of Americans who recently upgraded, you probably already know that. In 2022, 61% of U.S. cellular customers accessed 5G networks, according to Global Wireless Solutions, a network testing and research company.
On Verizon’s Ultra Wideband network, I got 500 Mbps down. But I didn’t notice a difference when streaming Netflix, watching TikTok, loading websites or sending messages. You don’t need a fire hose to extinguish a candle.
Where you might see a difference is during commuting hours and other times of heavy congestion, Chetan Sharma, a telecom-industry analyst, told me. A Verizon spokesman said that 5G’s higher data capacity helps at concerts, sporting events and other crowded areas where everyone is trying to download or upload photos or videos.
“As cars, smart home standards, and so many screens took center stage at this year’s [CES] show, 5G took a back seat,” concludes a Verge article titled, “Where was 5G at CES?” “After years of hype, 5G was seemingly a no-show at CES 2023.” The Verge article continues knocking 5G (and for good reason):
For starters, we’re all sick of hearing about it. And CES has a unique way of rallying around a technology one year and then leaving it for dead the next.
And there was always a time limit on 5G’s newsworthiness — at a certain point, when it becomes the prevailing wireless technology, it’s not going to be “5G the new thing;” it’ll just be “the internet you use when you’re not on Wi-Fi.”
More than any of the above, the time has passed where wireless CEOs feel they need to sell 5G to the general public (and, of course, their shareholders). It’s not a niche new service anymore; it’s the default option (in the U.S. at least). Basically every new phone sold on their shelves is 5G compatible, and mid-band 5G finally exists on all major carriers in large parts of the US. The next time you walk into a wireless store to buy a new phone or sign up for a new service, you’ll have a very hard time leaving without a 5G device and plan, regardless of whether you really wanted them.
So now we have 5G phones in our hands, 5G networks are here, and… not much has changed. Maybe web pages load a little faster — hardly robot surgery. What gives? The thing is, rolling out 5G is a long ongoing process. The hype made it seem like all the good stuff was just around the corner, but truthfully, it was (and still is) years and years away.
So yes, you may have a 5G icon on your phone, but the most transformative aspects of 5G are supposedly still in the works. That’s a tough message to sell in a flashy keynote, especially when everyone in the room has access to the technology you’re talking about.
The IEEE Techblog in general, and this author in particular, have been pounding the table for years that 5G would be a colossal tech train wreck for these reasons:
1. 3GPP Release 16 URLLC in the RAN spec and performance testing have not been completed. Hence the URLLC in 3GPP Release 15 and ITU M.2150 recommendation do not meet the critically important URLLC ITU M.2410 performance requirements for ultra high reliability or ultra low latency. Here is the latest status of URLLC in the RAN in the 3GPP Release 16 specification as of 6 January 2023:
–Physical Layer Enhancements for NR Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communication (URLLC) NR_L1enh_URLLC 1 Rel-16 R1 6/15/2018 12/22/2022 96% complete RP-19158
–UE Conformance Test Aspects – Physical Layer Enhancements for NR URLLC NR_L1enh_URLLC-UEConTest 2 Rel-16 R5 12/14/2020 12/22/2022 90% complete RP-202566 RP-221485
2. There is no implementation standard for 5G SA Core network– only 3GPP reference architecture specs which list alternative implementation schemes, most of which are “cloud native.” That resulted in a lot of telco confusion that delayed the roll out of 5G SA networks such that most 5G deployed today is NSA which uses 4G LTE core network and functions. Dell’Oro Group’s Dave Bolan wrote in a white paper:
The 5G Core is the key to monetizing the 5G SA network bringing MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) into the modern cloud era, allowing the MNO to (1) offer new services quickly with Cloud-Native Network Functions, (2) add Network Slices on demand for mobile private networks, and (3) address latency-sensitive applications with MEC. These new opportunities cannot be addressed by 4G or 5G NSA networks, and the sooner an MNO embraces 5G SA networking, the closer it will be to reaping new revenue streams.
3. ALL of the 3GPP defined 5G functions and features, require 5G SA Core network. Those 5G functions include 5G security, network slicing, and automation/virtualization. MEC also needs a 5G SA Core network to work efficiently with a 5G RAN. There are relatively few 5G SA Core networks deployed and for those that are, there are few of the highly touted 5G functions available, e.g. T-Mobile is a case in point.
4. There is no standard for roaming between 5G networks, especially not when there are different versions of 5G SA core networks- each requiring a different software download for 5G endpoint devices. Hence, 5G is not truly mobile in the sense of portability. 5G is probably best used for FWA or local M2M/IoT communications where there are no roaming requirements.
5. There is no standard for 5G Frequency Arrangements (ITU M.1036 revision 6) which are critically important for all the mmWave frequencies specified at WRC 19 for 5G, but frequency arrangements not yet agreed upon by ITU-R WP 5D.
6. 5G base station and endpoint device power consumption is very high, especially for the mmWave frequencies which deliver the fastest 5G speeds.
5G in India:
Mike Dano of Light Reading writes that the U.S. is working on a national spectrum policy, presumably for 5G (and later) 6G.
The White House is working through the NTIA to develop a national spectrum strategy that would cover 5G, 6G and other spectrum users.
According to FierceWireless, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) chief Alan Davidson said that work would continue throughout this year. Speaking at last week’s CES conference in Las Vegas, Davidson reminded the audience that the NTIA manages federal spectrum use and serves as the President’s advisor on spectrum policy. That means that the NTIA works together with the FCC to manage spectrum when a federal user is involved. From a practical perspective, the Department of Defense has historically held a lot of valuable spectrum for national security use, making the DoD an incumbent user in many spectrum bands.
The NTIA manages federal spectrum use and serves as the President’s advisor on spectrum policy. (Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)
In 2023 NTIA will be working with federal agency partners to develop a national spectrum strategy, which will provide a long-term plan to meet both commercial and federal spectrum needs.
Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said they’re taking stock of the agency’s spectrum usage in order to potentially release some for commercial uses, according to SpaceNews. “It is an ongoing challenge. We expect to have to fight for maintenance of spectrum. But at the same time, we realize we’re not going to win every fight,” said Steve Volz, NOAA Satellite and Information Service assistant administrator on January 11th at the American Meteorological Society meeting.
Spectrum for 5G and 6G is a critical national policy topic:
“Continuing to meet increasing consumer demand and expectations, ensure continued growth of the US economy, bridge the digital divide, and facilitate global leadership on next-generation technologies requires sufficient spectrum resources,” wrote the CTIA, the US wireless industry’s main trade association. “Accordingly, it is imperative that the commission continually replenish its pipeline of spectrum allocated for commercial mobile and fixed broadband services.”
“America needs a national strategy to make sure there is enough spectrum to build out 5G networks and not fall behind China,” wrote Mike Rogers, a former Congressional representative from Michigan who authored a report critical of China’s Huawei, in The Hill.
Joel Thayer, of the Digital Progress Institute, agreed. “If we cannot get our act together and follow an all-of-the-above spectrum strategy, we cede the race to 5G and even 6G to China. Full stop,” he wrote in The Hill.
Ericsson expects RAN market to be flat with 5G build-out still in its early days; U.S. cellular industry growth to slow in 2023
China has moved slightly ahead of both South Korea and the U.S. in the race to deploy 5G, according to a new report by Analysys Mason. The countries were ranked based on nations’ respective 5G spectrum and infrastructure policies as well as commercial plans by their respective wireless sectors.
China leads the world in 5G readiness, followed by South Korea, the U.S. and Japan in that order, according to the report, which was commissioned by CTIA-the U.S. based trade organization for the wireless industry.
Analysis Mason found that all three major Chinese wireless network operators (China Telecom, China Mobile, and China Unicom) have committed to specific 5G launch dates. The government has also committed to providing at least 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum and 2,000 MHz of high-band spectrum for each operator.
In South Korea, the government is soon expected to free up a combined 1300 MHz of both mid-band 3.5-GHz and high-band 28-GHz spectrum, with an additional 2 GHz of high-band spectrum capable of being utilized for 5G.
While all major US wireless providers are trialing 5G technologies and a number have committed to small-scale fixed wireless 5G launches by the end of the year, the country has yet to announce plan to allocate mid-band spectrum exclusively for mobile by the end of 2020.
“The United States will not get a second chance to win the global 5G race,” CTIA president and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said.
“Today’s research highlights the importance of policymaker action in 2018 to reform local zoning rules and unlock access to mid-band spectrum as part of a broader spectrum pipeline plan. I’m optimistic we will leapfrog China because key leaders in the Administration, on Capitol Hill, and at the FCC are focused on the reforms needed to win the race.”
In Japan, wireless providers are investing in 5G testing and regulators have committed to releasing mid- and high-band spectrum by early 2019.
In evaluating the current status of the global race to 5G, Analysys Mason studied 5G spectrum and infrastructure policies as well the commercial industry plans of ten countries.
Key findings by Analysys Mason include:
- All major Chinese providers have committed to specific launch dates and the government has committed to at least 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum and 2,000 MHz of high-band spectrum for each wireless provider.
- Countries around the world are moving quickly to make spectrum available for 5G. This year alone, the U.K., Spain, and Italy are all holding 5G spectrum auctions.
- At the end of 2018, the U.S. will rank sixth out of the 10 countries in mid-band (3– 24GHz) spectrum availability, a critical band for 5G. The U.S. joins Russia and Canada as the only countries currently without announced plans to allocate mid-band spectrum on an exclusive basis to mobile by the end of 2020.
- Countries like the U.K. and regions like the European Union are taking significant steps to modernize infrastructure rules to facilitate the deployment of 5G networks.
To understand the potential impact the race to 5G may have on America’s economy, Recon Analytics conducted an historical analysis of how winning and losing wireless leadership effected the economies of the U.S. and other nations.
“When countries lose global leadership in a generation of wireless, jobs are shed and technology innovation gets exported overseas,” said Roger Entner, Founder, Recon Analytics. “Conversely, leading the world in wireless brings significant economic benefits, as the U.S. has seen with its 4G leadership. These are the serious stakes that face American policymakers in the escalating global race to 5G.”
Findings from Recon Analytics include:
- Winning the race to 4G boosted America’s GDP by nearly $100B and our 4G launch spurred an 84% increase in wireless-related jobs – benefits that could have gone to other countries had the U.S. not led the world in 4G.
- U.S. 4G leadership helped secure leading positions in key parts of the global wireless ecosystem, including the app economy.
- Losing wireless leadership had long-term negative effects on Japan and Europe, contributing to job losses and the contraction of their domestic wireless industries.
To highlight the implications of these reports, CTIA is hosting the Race to 5G Summit on Thursday, April 19 in Washington, D.C. The summit will bring together leading policymakers and technology and wireless industry executives involved in shaping America’s 5G future.
- Race to 5G Report: www.ctia.org/news/race-to-5g-report
- Race to 5G Facts and Figures: www.ctia.org/the-wireless-industry/the-race-to-5g
- Analysys Mason: Global Race to 5G – Spectrum and Infrastructure Plans and Priorities: www.ctia.org/news/global-race-to-5g-spectrum-and-infrastructure-plans-and-priorities
- Recon Analytics: How America’s 4G Leadership Propelled the U.S. Economy: www.ctia.org/news/how-americas-4g-leadership-propelled-the-u-s-economy
About the Analysys Mason Research
This research was commissioned by CTIA. Analysys Mason compared 5G spectrum and infrastructure policies proposed in markets worldwide to advance 5G technology and facilitate successful network deployment, and to prepare a readiness comparison between markets.
About Analysys Mason
Analysys Mason is a global consultancy and research firm specialising in telecoms, media and technology for more than 30 years. Our consulting and research expertise in telecoms, media and technology underpins everything we do to help change our clients’ businesses for the better. Since 1985, Analysys Mason’s consulting and analyst teams have played an influential role in key industry milestones and helping clients around the world through major shifts in the market. Our consulting and research divisions continue to be at the forefront of developments in digital services and transformation are advising clients on new business strategies to address disruptive technologies. Our experts located in offices around the world provide local perspective on global issues.
About the Recon Analytics Research
This research was commissioned by CTIA. This is the fifth report over the last thirteen years that Recon Analytics has authored on the impact of the wireless industry on the U.S. economy. Building on the same consistent framework, these reports have documented how the U.S. wireless industry has revolutionized society and the U.S. economy, relying on extensive primary and secondary research for these studies.
About Recon Analytics: The mission of Recon Analytics is to clear the clutter, help focus executives and policymakers on what is actually happening in the marketplace and what really matters, and make a positive impact on business and policy decisions. Founded and led by leading telecom analyst Roger Entner, Recon Analytics’ approach is bolstered by its industry-first executive advisory board, which helps us hone our strategy, improve our research, and provide unparalleled insights into the matters most relevant to the business and the public policies impacting it. With this foundation, Recon Analytics focuses on three core areas: Syndicated research, custom consulting, policy related data analysis, as well as white papers.
CTIA® (www.ctia.org) represents the U.S. wireless communications industry and the companies throughout the mobile ecosystem that enable Americans to lead a 21st century connected life. The association’s members include wireless carriers, device manufacturers, suppliers as well as apps and content companies. CTIA vigorously advocates at all levels of government for policies that foster continued wireless innovation and investment. The association also coordinates the industry’s voluntary best practices, hosts educational events that promote the wireless industry and co-produces the industry’s leading wireless tradeshow. CTIA was founded in 1984 and is based in Washington, D.C.