Qualcomm executives have repeatedly associated full realization of 5G–something pinned to the 2035 timeframe–as a $12 trillion global opportunity. But that comes with some qualifiers, perhaps chief among them the availability of new spectrum.
Last week Dean Brenner, Qualcomm senior vice president of spectrum strategy and technology policy, visited lawmakers of Capitol Hill to help educated elected leaders on the importance of making available new spectrum to foster innovation and commercialization. Specifically, Brenner and colleague Alice Tornquist, Qualcomm vice president of government affairs, spoke to the bipartisan Congressional Spectrum Caucus, regarding H.R. 1888, the Federal Spectrum Incentive Act of 2017.
This legislation envisions an amendment to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Organization Act to provide monetary incentives for federal agencies to “voluntarily relinquish their spectrum rights in order for such spectrum to be auctioned for a repurposed commercial use…Instead of being reimbursed for the costs of sharing frequencies with non-federal users…such federal entities may receive a percentage of the proceeds from spectrum it relinquishes for auction.” And, while not necessarily a monetary one-for-one, recent federal spectrum auctions have raised tens of billions of dollars.
Brenner, in a blog post recapping his activity on the Hill, makes the point that 5G isn’t just a millimeter wave-dependent technology, but, rather, envisioned as a unification of virtually all bands.
“5G will use all types of spectrum — low band, mid band, and high band. It will also use spectrum regulated under any and all regulatory paradigms — licensed, unlicensed, and shared. Moreover, spectrum to enable Gigabit LTE and 5G are inextricably linked.”
Qualcomm views the deployment of gigabit LTE networks, centered on LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro specifications, as a technological stepping stone to the 5G New Radio spec. The other side of this is the likely deployment of 5G; it won’t be like flipping a switch. 5G will start in dense metro areas and marquee venues, and be interworked with increasingly robust LTE networks to provide a seamless user experience. Learn more about gigabit LTE, as well as a Qualcomm’s work with Australian operator Telstra, here.
While major operators–Verizon and AT&T–are focusing pre-standard 5G trial work, and that’s not to say this is the operators’ only 5G-related work, that contemplates delivery of fixed wireless access over millimeter waves, T-Mobile U.S., in typical “un-carrier” fashion, has announced plans for nationwide mobile 5G using it’s significant 600 MHz holdings.
Brenner calls the 600 MHz frequencies “prime, low-band spectrum that will bring greater capacity and improved coverage for mobile broadband,” one of the three primary 5G use cases. Speaking of the Federal Communication Commission’s recent 600 MHz auction, which raised nearly $20 billion, he called the auction “successful because…it will open 70 megahertz of licensed spectrum for fast mobile broadband. It was not surprising that a wide cross-section of the U.S. mobile and cable industries bid heavily in the auction for this spectrum, as the 600 MHz spectrum is especially valuable for gigabit LTE as well as 5G. It is suited for long-range, macro deployment that are not only great for providing enhanced mobile broadband coverage over a large area, but also ultimately connecting the wide-are massive internet of things,” number two on the list of primary 5G use cases. The third, for those of you counting, is mission critical communications dependent on the ultra low latency promised by 5G.
Back to broad support for 5G spectrum. The 600 MHz, and similar low-band holding are complemented by mid-bands, think the 3.5 GHz CBRS band in the U.S., then millimeter wave bands; the majority of the action there is around the 28 GHz and 39 GHz frequencies.
“All in all,” Brenner wrote, “it is very encouraging to see the FCC continuing to work on making more spectrum available for gigabit LTE and 5G. I know I speak for my colleagues at Qualcomm when I say that here in the U.S., we cannot wait to see the commercial launches of 5G NR…to start in 2019, and we’re all working with urgency to make that a reality.”
He goes on to recap spectrum movements in China, Japan, Europe, Korea, Australia and Hong Kong, which is valuable read for industry watchers.