US should speed up mid-band spectrum roll-out for 5G

21 February 2020 2 min. read
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A new study from Analysys Mason, a global advisory firm focused on the telecom (TMT) sector, highlights the need for US policymakers to quickly bring more licensed mid-band spectrum for 5G networks.

Analysys Mason conducted the mid-band spectrum report for the CTIA, which represents the US wireless communications industry. The report – “Global Race to 5G” – benchmarked the situation in the US against 13 other countries: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. The report examined the spectrum released between 2017 and 2020.

“This report highlights that U.S. policymakers need to deliver the mid-spectrum they have identified – and do so quickly,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA president and CEO. “We need 350 MHz of spectrum auctioned in 2020. America’s national spectrum strategy – FCC Chairman Pai’s 5G Fast Plan – has been instrumental to date, and I’m confident we’ll make more licensed spectrum available to continue successfully building the U.S. 5G economy.”

US should speed up mid-band spectrum roll-out for 5G

The study found that all the countries except the US have made mid-band spectrum available (or will do so before the end of 2020) in the 3.4 - 5.0GHz range through exclusive wide-area licenses. The US is unique in releasing mid-band spectrum in the 3 GHz range on a shared or unlicensed basis.

European countries, in contrast, are making only the lower part (5.925-6.425 GHz) of the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use.

According to a GSMA report from 2019, licensed spectrum is key to a successful 5G rollout. For one, it’s necessary to ensure companies make the long-term heavy network investment needed for 5G; otherwise, risks are significantly increased without assured, long-term, reliable spectrum access. Licensed spectrum also enables wider coverage areas and better quality of service guarantees, according to GSMA.

“Our research shows that other countries are currently more fully committed to the licensed spectrum playbook that made the U.S. the 4G global leader,” said Janette Stewart, principal at Analysys Mason and the lead author of the report. “More licensed spectrum, particularly in the mid-band, is critical if the U.S. wants to maintain its wireless leadership.”