Through disaggregation of the Radio Access Network (RAN) into functional blocks/modules and defining open interfaces between those modules, OpenRAN technology promises to allow newer, smaller players to sell into the 4G/5G equipment market. The intent is to offer more choices for cellular network operators who buy most of their gear from 4 or 5 big base station vendors.
Open RAN has been endorsed by 5G upstarts like Dish Network and Rakuten in Japan, but also by five big European carriers – Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia (TIM), Telefónica and Vodafone – which want to build an Open RAN ecosystem in Europe. AT&T has also expressed interest in the technology. However, there remains a lot of skepticism, especially for brownfield carriers.
On March 14th, Dish Network executives participated in a video conference with a several FCC officials to discuss the company’s plans to launch a nationwide 5G network using Open RAN technology. Present on behalf of DISH were Stephen Bye, Chief Commercial Officer; Marc Rouanne, Chief Network Officer; Jeffrey Blum, Executive Vice President, External and Legislative Affairs; Sidd Chenumolu, Vice President, Technology Development; Alison Minea, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs; William Beckwith, Director of Wireless Regulatory Affairs; Hadass Kogan, Director & Senior Counsel, Regulatory Affairs; and Michael Essington, Senior Manager, Public Policy.
According to a Dish filing, the FCC requested the meeting to learn more about how Dish plans to deploy OpenRAN, rather than traditional purpose built RAN equipment, to build their 5G cellular network.
Ahead of its June 14, 2022 buildout milestone, DISH is launching a first-of-its-kind, cloud native, virtualized O-RAN 5G network in several major metropolitan areas of the country. Because DISH is building a greenfield network, we have the flexibility to choose the best technology to enter the market. While legacy carriers built closed end-to-end networks, DISH chose O-RAN because, among other reasons, it offers lower capital and operating costs, and is more resilient, secure, and energy efficient. In cooperation with more than 30 technology partners, DISH will offer a real-world example of the benefits of O-RAN as our 5G network rolls out to customers this year.
If more American carriers see the benefits of O-RAN and are able to adopt it as their networks evolve, the United States will be a stronger competitor in the global market. O-RAN is a game changer, among reasons, because:
- O-RAN networks increase vendor diversity
- O-RAN enhances spectrum utilization and enables network slicing
- O-RAN supports national security and cybersecurity objectives
- O-RAN networks are more secure and more agileO-RAN networks are more secure and more agile
In February 2021, the FCC published an OpenRAN Notice of Inquiry, stating:
Some parties assert that open radio access networks (Open RAN) are a potential path to drive 5G innovation, with industry proponents arguing that it could provide opportunities for more secure networks, foster greater vendor diversity, allow for more flexible network architectures, lower capital and operating expenses, and lead to new services tailored to unique use cases and consumer needs; others contend that Open RAN is still in its most formative stages, and that while promising, significant work remains before the benefits of the concept can fully be realized.
This Notice of Inquiry seeks input on the status of Open RAN and virtualized network environments: where the technology is today and what steps are required to deploy Open RAN networks broadly and at scale. It also seeks comment on whether and, if so, how deployment of Open RAN-compliant networks could further the Commission’s policy goals and statutory obligations, advance legislative priorities, and benefit American consumers by making state-of-the-art wireless broadband available more quickly and to more people in more parts of the country.
The financial analysts at New Street Research, say that U.S. government legislation could pave the way for “$1.5 billion for the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund to deploy Open RAN equipment to spur movement toward open architecture, software-based wireless technologies and funding innovative leap-ahead technologies in the US mobile broadband market.”
The analysts added, “That provision might be of particular value to Dish, which is building out its network based on that technology.”
The FCC’s C-Band spectrum (between 3.7 GHz and 4.2 GHz) auction earlier this year raised a staggering gross total of $81.17 billion [1.], smashing the previous auction record of $44 billion raised in the AWS-3 auction that ran in 2014-2015 and raised nearly $45 billion. The mid-band spectrum acquired by AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, could mark a fundamental shift to the 5G landscape in the U.S.
Note 1. Verizon spent a jaw dropping $45B at the C-Band auction, AT&T invested about $23B, while T-Mobile spent $9B to augment its already substantial mid-band holdings.
However, there is a huge controversy over use of that band by wireless telcos. The FAA and aviation industry groups say the new 5G service could interfere with radar or radio altimeters, gauges that measure the distance between aircraft and the ground. Information from those aviation devices feeds a number of cockpit safety systems used to land planes, avoid crashes and prevent midair collisions.
Today, the FAA warned that interference from planned use of 5G wireless spectrum posed an air safety risk and could result in flight diversions.
FAA outlined flight restrictions that will take effect on January 5, 2022 when new 5G C-Band services make their debut, even as regulators work with telecom and aerospace companies to avoid U.S. air traffic disruptions. The FAA order would restrict pilots from operating automatic landing and other cockpit systems commonly used in poor weather, to avoid possible interference from 5G in the spectrum range known as the C-band.
The airports that would face potential disruptions will be identified in future notices, according to the FAA order, known as an airworthiness directive. Regulators and technical experts have been working to address concerns about potential safety risks to resolve a long-running dispute between the aviation and telecom industries.
“The FAA plans to use data provided by telecommunications providers to determine which airports within the United States have or will have C-band base stations or other devices that could potentially impact airplane systems,” the agency’s order said.
Data pertaining to 5G signals’ power levels and location are expected to help air-safety regulators limit disruptions, current and former government officials have said. Aviation industry groups have warned of potentially “debilitating impacts” from such flight restrictions, saying in a Nov. 18 letter to the FCC: “Air cargo and commercial air travel will likely cease at night and in any weather where the pilot cannot see the runway.”
- The FAA said it was coordinating with the Federal Communications Commission and wireless companies and has made progress “toward safely implementing the 5G expansion.”
- The FCC said it looks forward to further guidance from the FAA that takes into account a recently proposed solution from telecom companies.
The FAA said the new 5G service could interfere with gauges that measure the distance between aircraft and the ground.
AT&T and Verizon previously agreed to delay by a month their activation of the fifth-generation wireless service, which provides faster broadband speeds for a range of mobile devices. The 5G C-Band services had previously been due to go live Dec. 5, but the companies agreed to hold off because of the FAA’s aviation safety concerns.
On November 24th, AT&T and Verizon offered to limit the signal power of certain 5G base stations as an additional safeguard. On Monday, a representative from the Aerospace Industries Association told the FCC in a letter the carriers’ proposed limits were “inadequate and far too narrow” to address flight safety concerns.
The U.S. telecom industry has maintained that the new 5G service doesn’t pose a safety threat to aircraft, pointing to other countries’ experience with similar wireless services.
- A Verizon spokesman said today that “there is no evidence that 5G operations using C-band spectrum pose any risk to aviation safety, as the real-world experience in dozens of countries already using this spectrum for 5G confirms.” The person added it was confident the FAA ultimately will conclude C-Band 5G use “poses no risk to air safety.” Verizon says it’s on track to reach 100 million Americans with the new service in the first quarter of 2022 and was confident the FAA’s further analysis will find C-band service “poses no risk to air safety.”
- An AT&T spokeswoman said today that the carrier recognizes the “paramount importance of air safety, and our use of the C-band spectrum will not undermine that imperative.”
In its order, the FAA said it determined that “no information has been presented that shows radio altimeters are not susceptible to interference” by the new 5G service. The FAA’s order said it affected an estimated 6,834 U.S.-registered airliners and other aircraft. A similar FAA order, also issued Tuesday, affects an estimated 1,828 helicopters.
The FAA also warned that interference from planned use of 5G wireless spectrum posed an air safety risk and could result in flight diversions. Another FAA directive on Tuesday said the “unsafe condition” posed by the planned use required immediate action before the Jan. 5 deployment “because radio altimeter anomalies that are undetected by the aircraft automation or pilot, particularly close to the ground … could lead to loss of continued safe flight and landing.”
The FCC said it “continues to make progress working with the FAA and private entities to advance the safe and swift deployment of 5G networks … We look forward to updated guidance from the FAA in the coming weeks that reflects these developments.”
|T-Mobile||Extended Range 5G||Ultra Capacity 5G||5G UC|
|Verizon||5G Nationwide||Ultra Wideband 5G||5G UW|
As the table shows, the carriers’ branding strategies combine mid-band (including C-band) and mmWave into one moniker, which is a logical choice as both mid-band and mmWave 5G can deliver much faster speeds than the low-band 5G networks that carriers currently use to provide nationwide 5G service. In simple terms, when users see those icons on their phones, they should also see faster speeds.
Here’s a look at the three frequency bands being used for 5G services:
Andersen says, “mid-band spectrum can give users a level of 5G service that other types of spectrum can’t: a combination of broad coverage plus excellent speeds, rather than just one or the other, which is the case with low-band (broad coverage but slower speeds) or mmWave (super-fast speeds but small coverage areas).”
Looking ahead to when C-Band might become the dominant spectrum for 5G, Andersen wrote (emphasis added):
C-Band has always been a few years away from becoming the dominant flavor of 5G in the US, and its rollout has been delayed for a bit as the FAA analyzes any possible effects the spectrum could have on aviation. That said, the good news for AT&T and Verizon users is that both carriers will soon begin C-Band deployments, as they pledged to minimize power output from C-Band base stations, especially those close to airports.
The bottom line is that while C-Band will likely be available in some cities in early-to-mid 2022, before it can be rolled out on a broad scale, wireless carriers will need to add new towers, install new hardware and software, and update existing network infrastructure in cities across the country.
All of that takes time, so users likely won’t see a major boost in 5G performance from the C-Band auction for another year or two. But given the results we’ve already recorded on mid-band 5G in the US and other countries, the performance gains C-Band can offer could very well be worth the wait.
We’re looking forward to testing C-Band as rollouts begin and seeing its impact on the end-user 5G experience. In the meantime, keep checking back with RootMetrics for more 5G and mobile performance insights.
AT&T and Verizon said today that they would limit some of their 5G wireless services for six months while federal regulators review the signals’ effect on aircraft sensors, an effort to defuse a conflict about C band interference that has roiled both industries.
The cellphone carriers detailed the proposed limits Wednesday in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The companies said they would lower the signals’ cell-tower power levels nationwide and impose stricter power caps near airports and helipads, according to a copy reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. This comes after, both companies agreed to push back their 5G C band rollouts by an additional month to January 5, 2022 after the FAA issued a Nov. 2 bulletin warning that action may be needed to address the potential interference caused by the 5G deployment.
“While we remain confident that 5G poses no risk to air safety, we are also sensitive to the Federal Aviation Administration‘s desire for additional analysis of this issue,” the companies said in the letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
“Wireless carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, paid over $80 billion for C-band spectrum—and have committed to pay another $15 billion to satellite users for early access to those licenses—and made those investments in reliance on a set of technical ground rules that were expressly found by the FCC to protect other spectrum users.”
AT&T and Verizon said they had committed for six months to take “additional steps to minimize energy coming from 5G base stations – both nationwide and to an even greater degree around public airports and heliports,” and said that should address altimeter concerns.
Wireless industry officials have held frequent talks with FCC and FAA experts to discuss the interference claims and potential fixes, according to people familiar with the matter. An FCC spokesman said the agreed-upon limits “represent one of the most comprehensive efforts in the world to safeguard aviation technologies” and the agency will work with the FAA “so that 5G networks deploy both safely and swiftly.” Wireless groups argue that there have been no C-Band aviation safety issues in other countries using the spectrum.
Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned it could restrict U.S. airspace in bad weather if the networks were turned on as planned in December. The FAA warning came in the thick of cellphone carriers’ network upgrade projects. A spokesman for the FAA called the proposal “an important and encouraging step, and we are committed to continued constructive dialogue with all of the stakeholders.” The FAA believes that aviation and 5G service in the band telecom companies have planned to use can safely coexist, he said.
AT&T and Verizon said they would temporarily lower cell-tower power levels for their 5G wireless services nationwide.
Photo Credit: GEORGE FREY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Wireless industry executives don’t expect the temporary limits to seriously impair the bandwidth they provide customers because networks already direct signals away from planes and airport tarmacs, according to another person familiar with the matter.
Still, the voluntary limits are a rare step for wireless companies that place a high value on the spectrum licenses they hold. U.S. carriers spent $81 billion to buy licenses for the 5G airwaves in question, known as the C-band, and spent $15 billion more to prepare them for service this winter.
The carriers earlier this month delayed their rollout plans until early January after FAA leaders raised concerns about the planned 5G service. Air-safety officials worried the new transmissions could confuse some radar altimeters, which aircraft use to measure their distance from the ground.
At an industry event last week, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said conducting flights in a safe manner and tapping spectrum for 5G services can both occur. He said the question was how to “tailor both what we’re doing in aviation so that it dovetails with the use of this particular spectrum.” Mr. Dickson said another focus is the use of the spectrum in other parts of the world and how it differs compared with the U.S. “That’s what the discussions are that we’re having with the telecoms right now.”
U.S. wireless companies send 5G signals over lower frequencies than the altimeters, but air-safety officials worried that some especially sensitive sensors could still pick up cell-tower transmissions. Regulators in Canada and France have also imposed some temporary 5G limits.
The carriers’ letter said the mitigation measures would provide more time for technical analysis “without waiver of our legal rights associated with our substantial investments in these licenses.”
C-band limits are most relevant to AT&T and Verizon, which paid premiums to grab licenses for the new signals ready for use in December 2021. The companies still plan to launch their service, subject to the new limits, in January 2022. The proposed limits would extend to July 6, 2022 “unless credible evidence exists that real world interference would occur if the mitigations were relaxed.”
Rival carrier T-Mobile US Inc. is less vulnerable to delay because it spent a smaller amount for licenses that are eligible for use in December 2023. It also controls a swath of licenses suitable for 5G that aren’t subject to air-safety claims.
It’s not yet clear whether the proposal will be accepted by the FAA, which has warned pilots of the possibility that “interference from 5G transmitters and other technology could cause certain safety equipment to malfunction, requiring them to take mitigating action that could affect flight operations.” After July 6th, both carriers say they’ll set everything back to normal “unless credible evidence exists that real-world interference would occur if the mitigations were relaxed.”
“Our use of this spectrum will dramatically expand the reach and capabilities of the nation’s next-generation 5G networks, advancing US leadership, and bringing enormous benefits to consumers and the US economy,” Verizon and AT&T claimed in their joint letter sent to the FCC.
The federal agencies and the companies they oversee are meanwhile stuck in what New Street Research analyst Blair Levin called “a deep state game of chicken” guided by each regulator’s particular interest, with no clear path towards resolution.
The latest FCC auction (#110) of mid-band spectrum for 5G ended Tuesday with a total of $21.9 billion in winning bids. That total is roughly in line with pre-auction estimates.
Auction 110 offered 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum in the 3.45–3.55 GHz band (the 3.45 GHz Service) for flexible use, including 5G wireless. The 100 megahertz of spectrum available in Auction 110 will be licensed on an unpaired basis divided into ten 10-megahertz blocks in partial economic areas (PEAs) located in the contiguous 48 states and the District of Columbia (PEAs 1–41, 43–211, 213–263, 265–297, 299–359, and 361–411). These 10-megahertz blocks are designated as A through J.
The clock phase concluded on November 16, 2021. The FCC will release a public notice within the next few business days announcing details about the assignment phase, including the date and time when bidding in the assignment phase will begin.
See the Auction 110 website for more information.
- Qualified Bidders (Clock Phase)= 33
- Licenses Won=4041
- FCC Held Licenses=19
- Total Licenses=4060
- Gross Proceeds as of Clock Phase=$21,888,007,794
Next up is the auction’s “assignment” phase, wherein winning bidders can select the specific frequencies they want to use. After that phase is over, the FCC will announce the identities of the winning bidders. That might not happen until December or January.
Major participants in the auction included AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Dish Network, Grain Management and Columbia Capital.
The spectrum in this auction is ideal for 5G. Mid-band spectrum is in high demand because it is widely viewed as providing the optimum mix of speed and coverage for 5G. Licenses in Auction 110 sold for an average of $0.666 per MHz per person (MHz pop) in the coverage area, according to Sasha Javid, chief operating officer for BitPath, who has been doing a detailed daily analysis of auction results.
Auction 110 winners will pay less per MHz pop in comparison with what Auction 107 (C-band) winners paid but more than Auction 105 CBRS band winners paid, according to Javid. Those other two auctions also included mid-band spectrum and the C-band auction was record breaking.
Javid notes that the CBRS licenses were subject to power restraints, making them less valuable. He didn’t offer an opinion on why Auction 110 licenses were less costly than Auction 107 licenses (on a MHz-pop basis), but perhaps the disparity is related to license size.
Winning bidders will need to purchase new radio equipment from base station/kit makers Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung (but not Huawei or ZTE which are banned in the U.S.) to put their spectrum licenses into 5 commercial service.
Unlike past spectrum auctions, cable companies including Comcast and Charter did not participate in the auction. Based on Dish Network’s recent fundraising, the company appears poised to potentially account for as much as a fourth of the auction’s total.
Broadly, the FCC’s 110 auction of spectrum licenses between 3.45GHz and 3.55GHz can be considered a success. The auction started October 5, and bidding crossed the critical $14.8 billion reserve price October 20. That was a necessary milestone considering that reserve price is the cost to move existing, incumbent military users out of the band.
The auction was worth around $0.70 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.
In comparison, the recent CBRS auction of mid-band spectrum drew winning bids of just $0.215 per MHz-POP, whereas the massive C-band auction generated winning bids of $0.945 per MHz-POP, a figure that does not account for additional clearing costs.
This FCC auction is the agency’s third-biggest spectrum auction ever. As noted by Next TV, only the $45 billion AWS-3 auction in 2015 and the $81 billion C-band auction earlier this year generated more in winning bids. The auction earlier this month passed the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction of 600MHz licenses, which ended with $19.8 billion in winning bids in 2017.
The value of the spectrum licenses in this auction could rise if interference with aircraft concerns continue to drag on the C-band. However, CTIA President and CEO, Meredith Attwell Baker in response to the bulletin maintained that 5G using C-band won’t cause interference and that timely deployments are key for 5G leadership. “5G networks using C-band spectrum operate safely and without causing harmful interference to aviation equipment.
In a report released Thursday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that the FCC’s benchmark for minimum broadband internet speeds (set six years ago at “always on” access of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream) is no longer fast enough. That’s especially the case for small business owners. After conducting a study on the matter, the GAO recommends the FCC analyze small business speed requirements at this time and reconsider its current definition.
“FCC officials said they are not aware of any small business requirements that have been taken into consideration in determining the minimum speed benchmark,” the GAO says. “Analyzing small business speed requirements could help inform FCC’s determination of the benchmark speed for broadband.”
The figure below illustrates the various kinds of business broadband use and the associated relative speed requirements.
Illustrative Examples of Different Kinds of U.S. Business Broadband Use:
Sources vary in terms of the specific speeds they recommend for small businesses. For example, in 2017, BroadbandUSA—a National Telecommunications and Information Administration program—published a fact sheet stating that small businesses need a minimum of 50 Mbps speeds in order to conduct tasks such as managing inventory, operating point-of-sale terminals, and coordinating shipping. A 2019 USDA report on rural broadband and agriculture stated that, as technology advances and volumes of data needed to manage agriculture production grow, speeds in excess of 25/3 Mbps with more equal download and upload speeds will likely be necessary.
Reports from small businesses show that many want a download speed of at least 100 Mbps to run their operations more effectively. According to the FCC’s data, about 67 percent of rural Americans have access to 100 Mbps down/10 Mbps up speeds, compared to about 83 percent with access to the agency’s current minimum benchmark.
To fulfill a statutory requirement to determine annually whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis to all Americans, FCC sets a minimum broadband speed benchmark.
In its 2021 Broadband Deployment Report, FCC stated that the current benchmark, last set in 2015, continues to meet that requirement. However, FCC officials said they are not aware of any small business requirements that have been taken into consideration in determining the minimum speed benchmark. Analyzing small business speed requirements could help inform FCC’s determination of the benchmark speed for broadband.
GAO is making one recommendation to FCC to solicit stakeholder input and analyze small business broadband speed needs and incorporate the results of this analysis into the benchmark for broadband. FCC agreed with this recommendation.
GSA’s latest report provides a snapshot of the global status of national usage of spectrum above 6 GHz for 5G services. It is part of a series of reports which separately also cover spectrum bands below 1 GHz and between 1 GHz and 6 GHz. This report reflects a market that is in constant flux (which this author has repeatedly stated would be the case till the most important IMT 2020 recommendations have been approved by ITU-R and ITU-T).
- Sixty-seven operators in 13 countries hold licences enabling operation of 5G networks using mmWave spectrum.
- Fourteen operators are known to be deploying 5G networks using mmWave spectrum.
- Fourteen countries have announced formal (date-specified) plans for allocating frequencies above 6 GHz between now and end-2021.
- Fifty-nine announced 5G devices explicitly support one or more of the 5G spectrum bands above 6 GHz (though note that details of spectrum support is patchy for pre-commercial devices). Eleven of those devices are known to be commercially available.
5G deployments in bands above 6 GHz:
Spectrum bands above 6 GHz are being explicitly opened up to enable provision of 5G services. GSA is aware of the following usage for 5G. The 24250–29500 MHz range covering the overlapping bands n257 (26500–29500 MHz), n258 (24250–27500 MHz) and n261 (27500–28350 MHz) has been the most-used 5G mmWave spectrum range to date:
- 113 operators in 39 countries are investing in pre-standard 5G (in the form of trials, licences, deployments or operational networks) across this spectrum range.
- 66 operators are licensed to deploy 5G in this range.
- 12 operators are understood to be actively deploying 5G networks using spectrum above 6 GHz.
- Eight operators in seven countries have reported running 5G tests/trials at 15 GHz.
- One operator has reported running 5G tests/trials at 18 GHz.
- Band n260, covering 37–40 GHz, is also already being used, with three companies in the USA actively deploying networks using this spectrum.
- Thirteen operators in eleven countries have been evaluating/ testing/trialling 5G using spectrum from 66 GHz to 76 GHz.
- GSA has identified four operators that have run tests/trials using spectrum from 81 GHz to 87 GHz.
Figure 1: Use of 5G spectrum between 24.25 GHz and 29.5 GHz, countries plotted by status of most advanced operator activities
At WRC-2019 in November, delegates identiﬁ ed several new frequency ranges for IMT and IMT-2020 (5G). These encompassed many of the existing 3GPP specified bands plus some new spectrum ranges:
• 24.25–27.5 GHz
• 37–43.5 GHz
• 45.5–47 GHz
• 47.2–48.2 GHz
• 66–71 GHz.
Other spectrum being considered by national regulators and international standards bodies, or that has been used in operator trials, is between the 71–86 GHz range.
5G device support for bands above 6 GHz:
5G device support for spectrum bands above 6 GHz is still at an early stage. GSA’s GAMBoD database includes 59 announced 3GPP compliant 5G devices that do or will support mmWave spectrum bands. Eleven of those are commercially available. The numbers of devices identiﬁed as supporting speciﬁc bands is much lower, as details of spectrum support is patchy for pre-commercial devices.
USA (Federal Communications Commission (FCC)):
In the USA, any bands already used for mobile service can also be deployed for 5G; FCC doesn’t require any particular technology and the choice is driven by carriers. This means multiple historic auctions are relevant for 5G including but not limited to those for spectrum at 28 GHz (March 1998 and May 1999) and 39 GHz (May 2000).
The FCC is currently undertaking a range of activities with a view to opening up extra spectrum for mobile use. In 2016, the FCC adopted its Upper Microwave Flexible Use Rules to make spectrum at 28 GHz, upper 37 GHz and 39 GHz available (including for 5G). Then the new Spectrum Frontier order dated 16 November 2017 put in place plans to open up an additional 1.7 GHz of mmWave spectrum in the 24 GHz and 47 GHz bands for ﬂ exible terrestrial wireless use. FCC also enabled use of spectrum between 64 GHz and 71 GHz by unlicensed devices (subject to restrictions).
In October 2018, the Commission issued a notice of proposed rules that would open up the 5.925–6.425 GHz and 6.425–7.125 GHz bands for unlicensed use, subject to establishing a mechanism to prevent interference with incumbent services. It speciﬁ cally anticipates – depending upon the part of the spectrum concerned – the use of low or standard power WiFi or variants of LTE for indoor or outdoor use.
The FCC has been running auctions of spectrum in the 24 GHz and 28 GHz bands. The auction of spectrum at 28 GHz (27.5–28.35 GHz) completed in January 2019, with bids totalling more than $700 million. Thirty-three bidders won 2965 licences.
The auction of spectrum at 24 GHz (24.25–24.45 GHz and 24.75–25.25 GHz) ended in May 2019 raising $2.02 billion in net bids. Twenty-nine bidders won 2904 licences.
In June 2018, FCC announced that it is also considering making an additional 2.75 GHz of the 26 GHz and 42 GHz bands available for 5G. In December 2018, FCC announced an incentive auction (Auction 103) covering spectrum at 37 GHz (37.6–38.6 GHz), 39 GHz (38.6–40 GHz) and 47 GHz (47.2–48.2 GHz) in order to free up more spectrum for 5G. Under the incentive auction, existing rights holders in those bands can choose either to relinquish their rights in exchange for a share of the auction revenue or alternatively receive modiﬁ ed licences after the auction consistent with a new band plan and service rules.
Auctions for 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands are planned by the end of 2019. Procedures for reconﬁguring the 39 GHz band, enabling existing licensees to relinquish or modify their licences were published in March 2019. Technical guides for bidding procedures were published in April 2019, along with the announcement of a process for sharing the spectrum at 37 GHz with the Department of Defense. Timelines for the reconﬁguration of existing rights were published in June 2019.
Planned 5G auctions and their dates:
Fourteen countries have announced formal (date-speciﬁ ed) plans for allocating mmWave frequencies between now and end-2021. A few other auctions/ allocations are timetabled to happen from 2022 onwards. Many countries are still deciding whether and when to hold auctions/ allocations for spectrum above 6 GHz.
Spectrum above 6 GHz, and in particular mmWave spectrum, has rapidly become important for mobile telecoms. It is clear, with the number of spectrum awards expected over the coming years, and the agreement of new mmWave spectrum bands at WRC-19, the investment in these spectrum bands by operators and commitments to launch compatible devices by vendors, that the importance of spectrum above 6 GHz is going to continue to grow. GSA will continue to track this trend. This report will be next updated in early 2020.
Draft New Report M.[IMT.EXPERIENCES] – Annex 6 U.S.A
SOURCE: U.S. via FCC
On March 17, 2010, the FCC released The National Broadband Plan, establishing a roadmap for initiatives to stimulate economic growth, spur job creation and boost America’s capabilities in education, health care, homeland security and more. The plan includes sections focusing on economic opportunity, education, health care, energy and the environment, government performance, civic engagement and public safety. The Plan fulfilled a Congressional mandate to ensure every American has “access to broadband capability,” including a detailed strategy for achieving affordability and maximizing use of broadband. One of the key elements of the plan is ensuring efficient allocation and use of government-owned and government-influenced assets. The Plan recommended making an additional 500 MHz of spectrum newly available for broadband within 10 years, of which 300 MHz should be available for mobile use within five years. In order to achieve this goal, the FCC established principles to:
– Enable incentives and mechanisms to repurpose spectrum to more flexible uses. Mechanisms include incentive auctions, which allow auction proceeds to be shared in an equitable manner with current licensees as market demands change. These would benefit both spectrum holders and the American public. The public could benefit from additional spectrum for high-demand uses and from new auction revenues. Incumbents, meanwhile, could recognize a portion of the value of enabling new uses of spectrum. For example, this would allow the FCC to share auction proceeds with broadcasters who voluntarily agree to use technology to continue traditional broadcast services with less spectrum.
– Ensure greater transparency of spectrum allocation, assignment and use to foster an efficient secondary market.
– Expand opportunities for innovative spectrum access models by creating new avenues for opportunistic and unlicensed use of spectrum and increasing research into new spectrum technologies.
In 2014, the FCC adopted a Report and Order for Incentive Auctions. The incentive auction is a new tool authorized by Congress to help the Commission meet the Nation’s accelerating spectrum needs. Broadcasters were given the unique financial opportunity in the “reverse auction” phase of the incentive auction to return some or all of their broadcast spectrum usage rights in exchange for incentive payments. By facilitating the voluntary return of spectrum usage rights and reorganizing the broadcast television bands, the FCC could recover a portion of ultra-high frequency (“UHF”) spectrum for a “forward auction” of new, flexible-use licenses suitable for providing mobile broadband services. Payments to broadcasters that participate in the reverse auction can strengthen broadcasting by funding new content, services, and delivery mechanisms. And by making more spectrum available for mobile broadband use, the incentive auction will benefit consumers by easing congestion on the Nation’s airwaves, expediting the development of new, more robust wireless services and applications, and spurring job creation and economic growth.
The broadcast incentive auction itself comprised of two separate but interdependent auctions – a reverse auction, which will determine the price at which broadcasters will voluntarily relinquish their spectrum usage rights; and a forward auction, which will determine the price companies are willing to pay for flexible use wireless licenses. The lynchpin joining the reverse and the forward auctions is the “repacking” process. Repacking involves reorganizing and assigning channels to the remaining broadcast television stations in order to create contiguous blocks of cleared spectrum suitable for flexible use. In order to be successful, each of the components must work together. Ultimately, the reverse auction requires information about how much bidders are willing to pay for spectrum licenses in the forward auction; and the forward auction requires information regarding what spectrum rights were tendered in the reverse auction, and at what price; and each of these depend on efficiently repacking the remaining broadcasters.
The reverse and forward auctions was integrated in a series of stages. Each stage will consist of a reverse auction and a forward auction. Prior to the first stage, the initial spectrum clearing target is determined. Broadcasters indicate through the pre-auction application process their willingness to relinquish spectrum usage rights at the opening prices. Based on broadcasters’ collective willingness, the initial spectrum clearing target will be set at the highest level possible (up to 126 megahertz of spectrum) without exceeding a pre-determined national aggregate cap on the interference between wireless providers and TV stations (“impairments”) created when TV stations must be assigned to the wireless band. Under this approach, the auction system will establish a band of wireless spectrum that is generally uniform in size across all markets. Then the reverse auction bidding process will be run to determine the total amount of incentive payments to broadcasters required to clear that amount of spectrum.
The forward auction bidding process will follow the reverse auction bidding process. If the “final stage rule” is satisfied, the forward auction bidding will continue until there is no excess demand, and then the incentive auction will close. If the final stage rule is not satisfied, additional stages will be run, with progressively lower spectrum targets in the reverse auction and less spectrum available in the forward auction. The final stage rule is a set of conditions that must be met in order to close the auction at the current clearing target; failure to satisfy the rule would result in running a new phase at the next lowest clearing target.
The FCC’s central objective in designing this incentive auction is to harness the economics of demand for spectrum in order to allow market forces to determine its highest and best use. We are also mindful of the other directives that Congress established for the auction, including making all reasonable efforts to preserve, as of the date of the passage of the Spectrum Act, the coverage area and population served of remaining broadcast licensees. The auction affords a unique opportunity for broadcasters who wish to relinquish some or all of their spectrum rights, but we emphasize that a broadcaster’s decision to participate in the reverse auction is wholly voluntary. In the descending clock auction format we chose, for example, a broadcaster need only decide whether it is willing to accept one or more prices offered to it as the reverse auction proceeds; if at any point the broadcaster decides a price is too low, it may drop out of the reverse auction. No station will be compensated less than the total price that it indicates it is willing to accept.
The FCC also recognizes the importance of broadcasters that choose not to participate in the reverse auction. To free up a portion of the UHF spectrum band for new, flexible uses, Congress authorized the Commission to reorganize the broadcast television spectrum so that the stations that remain on the air after the incentive auction occupy a smaller portion of the UHF band. The reorganization (or “repacking”) approach we adopted will avoid unnecessary disruption to broadcasters and consumers and ensure the continued availability of free, over-the-air television service.
Ultimately, our actions will benefit consumers of telecommunications services. While minimizing disruption to broadcast television service, we seek to rearrange the UHF spectrum in order to increase its potential to support the changing needs of 21st Century consumers. We recognize that the same individuals may be consumers of television, mobile broadband – using both licensed and unlicensed spectrum – and other telecommunications services. To benefit such consumers, and consistent with the framework of the Spectrum Act, we have strived for balance in our decision-making process between television and wireless services, and between licensed and unlicensed spectrum uses.
FCC adopted a “600 MHz Band Plan” for new services in the reorganized UHF spectrum. By maximizing the spectrum’s value to potential bidders through features such as paired five megahertz “building blocks,” the Band Plan will help to ensure a successful auction. By accommodating variation in the amount of spectrum we recover in different areas, which depends on broadcaster participation and other factors, the Band Plan will ensure that the repurposing of spectrum for the benefit of most consumers nationwide is not limited by constraints in particular markets. The Band Plan will promote competition and innovation by creating opportunities for multiple license winners and for future as well as current wireless technologies. Because it is composed of a single band of paired spectrum blocks only, our Band Plan also simplifies the forward auction design. We adopt for new licensees flexible-use service rules, and technical rules similar to those governing the adjacent 700 MHz Band, an approach that should speed deployment in the 600 MHz band. Devices will be required to be interoperable across the entire new 600 MHz Band.
The FCC concluded that the 600 MHz Band Plan we adopt best supports our central goal of allowing market forces to determine the highest and best use of spectrum, as well as our other policy goals for the incentive auction, including the Commission’s five key policy goals for selecting a band plan. The Band Plan enhances the economic value and utility of the repurposed spectrum by enabling two-way (paired) transmissions throughout this well-propagating “coverage band.” This approach also simplifies auction design by offering only a single configuration – paired blocks – which allows for maximum interchangeability of blocks, and enables limited market variation, thus avoiding a “least common denominator” problem. It also provides certainty about the operating environment for forward auction bidders by establishing guard bands between television and wireless services in order to create spectrum blocks that are reasonably designed to protect against harmful interference. Further, the 600 MHz Band Plan promotes competition. By offering only paired blocks in a single band, and by licensing on a Partial Economic Area (“PEA”) basis, the 600 MHz Band Plan will promote participation by both larger and smaller wireless providers, including rural providers, and encourage new entrants. Finally, the 600 MHz Band Plan, composed of a single, paired band, promotes interoperability and international harmonization.
The 600 MHz Band Plan we adopt consists of paired uplink and downlink bands offered in 5 + 5 megahertz blocks. The uplink band will begin at channel 51 (698 MHz), followed by a duplex gap, and then the downlink band. We will license the 600 MHz Band on a geographic area license basis, using PEAs. Further, we will accommodate market variation: specifically, we will use the 600 MHz Band Plan in all areas where sufficient spectrum is available; and in constrained markets where less spectrum is available, we may offer fewer blocks, or impaired blocks, than what we offer generally in the 600 MHz Band Plan. Finally, we establish technically reasonable guard bands to prevent harmful interference and to ensure that the spectrum blocks are as interchangeable as possible.
Because the FCC did not know the exact number of blocks licensed or their frequencies until the incentive auction concludes, the 600 MHz Band Plan we adopted represents a framework for how to license the repurposed spectrum. The Technical Appendix sets forth each of the specific 600 MHz Band Plan scenarios based on the number of television channels cleared; ultimately, the repurposed spectrum will be licensed according to one of these scenarios.
The FCC noted that offering downlink-only blocks in the 600 MHz auction may undermine competition. Because providers must pair downlink-only blocks with existing spectrum holdings, new entrants would not be able to use downlink-only blocks, thus limiting their utility. In contrast, offering paired spectrum blocks will benefit all potential 600 MHz Band licensees. Further, offering downlink-only blocks would further complicate the auction design without a commensurate benefit. As explained above, downlink-only blocks are less valuable than paired blocks to bidders, and offering both paired and unpaired blocks would introduce additional differences among licenses in the forward auction and increase the amount of time the auction takes to close.
Finally, our all-paired band plan generally has nationally consistent blocks and guard bands, which will promote interoperability. In contrast, offering downlink-only blocks could exacerbate interoperability concerns by separating the 600 MHz Band into two bands. If we license both unpaired and paired blocks, we would expect that the industry standards body would create separate bands for the paired blocks and unpaired blocks, as it has done previously. If the 600 MHz Band were split into two separate bands, then some devices could support part, but not all, of the Band. Concerns were also raised over the potential for wireless carriers using downlink-only blocks to configure their networks so as to create barriers to roaming. Limiting the auction to paired blocks will help to ameliorate these concerns. It will also promote international harmonization, and in particular, should help to address cross-border issues with Canada and Mexico.
Repurposing for Mobile Use:
On 18 January 2017, the auction satisfied both of the conditions of the final stage rule, assuring that the auction will close in Stage 4. At $19.8 billion in gross revenue for 70 MHz of spectrum, the incentive auction is among the highest grossing auctions ever conducted by the FCC. The auction created a first-of-its-kind market for repurposing commercially-held spectrum licenses for new uses. The model is part of the foundation of the future of U.S. spectrum allocation and use policy designed for 21st century realities. The US incentive auctions started in March 2016 and has satisfied the rules for the final stage which means that 84 MHz (614-698 MHz) will be cleared from broadcasting including 70 MHz of licensed spectrum and 14 MHz for unlicensed.
Frequency arrangement from US incentive auction:
Following the conclusion of the incentive auction, the transition to the reorganized UHF band will be as rapid as possible without causing unnecessary disruption. Television stations that voluntarily turn in their licenses or agree to channel share must transition from their pre-auction channels within three months of receiving their reverse auction payments. The time required for stations reassigned to a new channel to modify their facilities will vary, so we will tailor their construction deadlines to their situations. This approach will ensure that stations transition as quickly as their circumstances allow, and allow coordination of deadlines where, for example, one station must vacate a channel before another can begin operating on its new channel. No station will be allowed to operate on a channel that has been reassigned or repurposed more than 39 months after the repacking process becomes effective. In other words, the repurposed spectrum will be cleared no later than 39 months after the effective date. Most new licensees should have access to 600 MHz spectrum well before then. Consistent with Congress’s mandate, we also establish procedures to reimburse costs reasonably incurred by stations that are reassigned to new channels, as well as by multichannel video programming distributors to continue to carry such stations.
As the U.S. Congress recognized, the incentive auction and the transition that follows require coordination with our cross-border neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Because of these common borders, the Commission has established processes and agreements to protect television and wireless operations in border areas from harmful interference. The FCC staff has used these processes to fully inform Canadian and Mexican officials regarding the incentive auction and, beginning in 2013, formed technical groups to meet routinely to plan for harmonious use of the reorganized UHF band following the incentive auction. Commission leadership has supplemented these efforts, meeting with their Canadian and Mexican counterparts to emphasize the need for and mutual benefits of harmonization. We are confident that the long and successful history of close cooperation with Canada and Mexico regarding the use of radio spectrum along our common borders will continue before, during, and after the incentive auction.
The recovery of the 700 MHz Band was made possible by the conversion of television broadcasting from the existing analog transmission system to a digital transmission system. Because the digital television (DTV) transmission system is more spectrally efficient than the analog system, less spectrum will be needed for broadcast television service after the transition to DTV on channels 251 is complete. The USA which switched-off its analogue transmissions in 2009, and was the first Administration to relocate the channels 52 to 69 to advanced wireless service.
The successful auction of the 700 MHz band has facilitated a nationwide roll-out of IMT (LTE) deployments, including establishing valuable spectrum for public safety uses. The U.S. 700 MHz band plan divides the 698-806 MHz frequency range into a lower 700 MHz portion and an upper 700 MHz portion. The final band plan is available at: http://wireless.fcc.gov/auctions/data/bandplans/700MHzBandPlan.pdf
To enable operability along border areas, the FCC has worked through bilateral coordination processes with its neighbours to address issues with variation in adopted band plans. The U.S. and APT FDD band plans are incompatible in their assignment of uplink and downlink spectrum therefore careful coordination of spectrum is required along the border areas. Due to overlapping base and mobile transmission of one band plan with base and mobile receiving frequencies of the other band plan, several interference scenarios can be found along the border.
According to a July 2012 survey, the U.S. 700 MHz ecosystem has grown rapidly to include 193 LTE device products including Modules for M2M, notebooks, phones, routers for hotspots, tablets and USB modems supported by over 18 manufacturers. 3GPP defines a number of bands in 700 MHz: Band 12: (Lower 700 MHz) 699 MHz-716 MHz /729 MHz-746 MHz; Band 13: (Upper C 700 MHz) 777 MHz-787 MHz /746 MHz-756 MHz; Band 14: (Upper D 700 MHz) 788 MHz798 MHz /758 MHz-768 MHz; Band 17: (Lower B, C 700 MHz) 704 MHz-716 MHz /734 MHz-746 MHz.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will put aside its work freeing up TV white spaces until Microsoft and broadcasters reach an accord on sharing the spectrum for wireless broadband, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told the House Communications Subcommittee. He cited “tricky” technical and policy matters the agency needs to address even as Microsoft and TV stations try to find middle ground on the band’s use.
Pai was asked by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) about the status of the white spaces “experiment,” who said that probably every part of his district has such white spaces. Pai said he had seen the promise of white spaces technology in places like South Boston, Va., a town in rural southern Virginia,
The chairman said there had been a lot of “tricky” technical issues and policy issues the commission had been hammering out (a number of them involving how to use that spectrum without interfering with licensed broadcast transmissions nearby).
The FCC in March resolved a number of petitions to reconsider the remote sensing database works, which is how unlicensed mobile devices can use the spectrum without–hopefully–interfering with TV station signals. So far broadcasters have questioned the efficacy of that process.
The FCC is permitting the use of white space devices (notably computers), both fixed and mobile, in unused channels, ch. 37, guard bands between broadcast and wireless spectrum and between uplink and downlink spectrum in the 600 MHz band–which they are sharing after the incentive auction.
It is part of the FCC’s focus on freeing up more spectrum for advanced wireless and closing the rural digital divide, which computer companies argue “white spaces” play a key role.
Pai praised Microsoft, the prime mover behind a white spaces rural broadband project, and the National Association of Broadcasters, who have agreed on a number of outstanding issues, though not on Microsoft’s desire to use adjacent channels, which NAB has argued is too close for comfort.
“If there is a consensus that allows us to move forward, we would like to do so,” he said, though he could not provide a timeline.
In a press conference today in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, President Trump laid out a number of initiatives focused on helping accelerate the U.S. role in the 5G race.
“This is, to me, the future,” Trump said, opening the press conference flanked by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Ivanka Trump and a room full of communications representatives in cowboy and hard hats.
“It’s all about 5G now,” Trump told the audience. “We were 4G and everyone was saying we had to get 4G, and then they said before that, ‘we have to get 3G,’ and now we have to get 5G. And 5G’s a big deal and that’s going to be there for a while. And at some point we’ll be talking about number six (6G).”
“5G will be as much as 100 times faster than the current 4G cellular networks. The race to 5G is on and America must win, It’s a race our great companies are now involved in,” Trump added.
Trump said a secure 5G network will transform how everyone communicates and create astonishing new opportunities in America. “It will make American farms more productive, American manufacturing more competitive and American health care better and more accessible,” he said.
The apparently off-script moment echoed Trump’s recent call on Twitter for the U.S. to get 6G technology “as soon as possible.” There’s something to be said for the spirit, perhaps, but it’s probably a little soon to be jumping the gun on a technology that doesn’t really exist just yet.
Trump used the opportunity to downplay earlier rumors that the government might be building its own 5G network, instead promoting a free-market method, while taking a shot at the government’s capabilities. “In the United States, our approach is private sector-driven and private sector-led,” he added. “The government doesn’t have to spend lots of money.”
“We cannot allowed any other country to out compete the United States in this power industry of the future,” Trump said. It’s important to note that China and the U.S. are fiercely competing in 5G adding to the tensions among the #1 and #2 global economies.
In recent months both the administration and the FCC have been discussing ways to make America more competitive in the race to the soon-to-be-ubiquitous cellular technology. Earlier today, the FCC announced plans to hold the largest spectrum auction in U.S. history, offering up the bands to wireless carriers. The planned auction is set to commence on December 10th. As much as 3.4 gigahertz of “millimeter-wave” spectrum could be sold by the FCC to wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon in the spectrum sale, according to Pai.
“Forward-thinking spectrum policy, modern infrastructure policy, and market-based network regulation form the heart of our strategy for realizing the promise of the 5G future.” – FCC Chairman Pai
The focus is understandable, of course (AJW: really???). 5G’s value will go far beyond faster smartphones, providing connections for a wide range of IoT and smart technologies and potentially helping power things like robotics and autonomous vehicles. The technology will undeniably be a key economic driver, touching as of yet unseen portions of the U.S. workforce.
“To accelerate and incentivize these investments, my administration is freeing up as much wireless spectrum as needed,” Trump added, echoing Pai’s plans.
Earlier today Pai and the FCC also proposed a $20.4 billion fund design to help connect rural areas. The chairman said the commission believes the fund could connect as many as four million small businesses and residences to high-speed Internet over the course of the next decade. The “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund” could launch later this year, after a period of public notice and comment.
The focus is understandable, of course. 5G’s value will go far beyond faster smartphones, providing connections for a wide range of IoT and smart technologies and potentially helping power things like robotics and autonomous vehicles. The technology will undeniably be a key economic driver, touching as of yet unseen portions of the U.S. workforce.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted rules to clear spectrum in the 95 GHz to 3 TeraHz frequencies for experimental use in order to ecnourage technological breakthroughs in communications. It might even set the stage for 6G and beyond. The FCC will issue experimental licenses for up to 10 years and open 21.2 GHz of spectrum in that range for testing unlicensed devices.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai invited NYU Wireless Professor Ted Rappaport, who was instrumental in conducting ground-breaking millimeter wave research, to present his institution’s findings thus far on the opportunities afforded by the spectrum bands above 95 GHz, where “science fiction will become reality,” Rappaport told the commission.
The applications that become possible at these higher frequencies are kind of mind-blowing, he said. With so much bandwidth and wider bandwidth channels, you can start having data rates that approach the bandwidth needed to provide wireless cognition, where the computations of the human brain at those data rates could actually be sent on the fly over wireless. As such, you could have drones or robotics receive in real time the kind of perception and cognition that the human brain could do.
The conventional wisdom is that as you go higher in frequency, you get more loss. “That’s only if you use an omnidirectional antenna, the old way of doing cellular 10 and 20 years ago. When you start using directional antennas, what happens is, you actually do better as you go higher in frequency for a given power level and a given antenna physical size,” Rappaport said.
The FCC’s Spectrum Horizons First Report and Order creates a new category of experimental licenses for use of frequencies between 95 GHz and 3 THz. These licenses will give innovators the flexibility to conduct experiments lasting up to 10 years, and to more easily market equipment during the experimental period, according to the FCC.
The item also makes a total of 21.2 gigahertz of spectrum available for use by unlicensed devices. The Commission selected bands with propagation characteristics that will permit large numbers of unlicensed devices to use the spectrum, while limiting the potential for interference to existing governmental and scientific operations in the above-95 GHz bands, such as space research and atmospheric sensing.
The First Report and Order provides unprecedented opportunities for new experimental and unlicensed use in the frequencies above 95 GHz and will help ensure that the United States stays at the forefront of wireless innovation. Moreover, study of these uses could ultimately lead to further rulemaking actions and additional licensing opportunities within the Spectrum Horizons bands.
“Today, we take big steps towards making productive use of this spectrum,” Pai said in his statement. “We allocate a massive 21 gigahertz for unlicensed use and we create a new category of experimental licenses. This will give innovators strong incentives to develop new technologies using these airwaves while also protecting existing uses.”