FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler called on the Commission to approve his plan to allocate spectrum for 5G in a speech before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. yesterday. Last October, the FCC proposed to authorize mobile operations in the 28 GHz band and the 39 GHz band, Part 15 unlicensed operations in the 64-71 GHz band and a hybrid licensing scheme in the 37 GHz band.
“High-band spectrum will be the focus of our decision next month,” he said. “These bands offer huge swaths of spectrum for super-fast data rates with low latency, and are now becoming unlocked because of technological advances in computing and antennas.”
Wheeler noted that 5G-type hardware and firmware are being tested by the OEMs and carriers are set to trial next generation technology in the field in 2017, with the first commercial deployments at scale expected in 2020. (Not to mention final 5G standards)
“This timeline requires that we act to pave the way today,” Wheeler said. “With the new rules I am proposing in our Spectrum Frontiers order, we take our most significant step yet down the path to our 5G future.”
The Chairman drew a distinction between this approach and the tact taken by other countries that plan to study 5G before allocating spectrum.
“Turning innovators loose is far preferable to expecting committees and regulators to define the future,” he said. “Instead, we will make ample spectrum available and then rely on a private sector-led process for producing technical standards best suited for those frequencies and use cases.”
This approach is designed to allow U.S. companies to take a leadership role in 5G similar to the policies that allowed the United States to be a world leader in 4G, according to Wheeler.
“If the Commission approves my proposal next month, the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications. And that’s damn important because it means U.S. companies will be first out of the gate,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said that the FCC traditionally lets technology drive policy, not the other way around. In the case of 5G that is very important because of the different of the different visions people have for the next generation of wireless technology.
“The marriage of Moore’s Law and wireless connectivity involves smart antenna systems, new more-efficient transmission formats, low-energy systems, network virtualization, and much more,” he said. “And on the spectrum side, these technologies require new access to spectrum in multiple bands – the wireless future will not be a one-size-fits-all future.”
To meet the varied needs of 5G, according to Wheeler, spectrum will be needed in the 600 MHz band, known as low band; the AWS-3 and new Citizens Broadband Radio service in the 3.5 GHz band, known as mid-band); and high-band spectrum at 28 GHz, 39 GHz, 64-71 GHz, and 37 GHz band, which will be the voted on by the FCC next month.
“Our 5G proposal is the final piece in the spectrum trifecta of low-band, mid-band, and high-band airwaves that will open up unprecedented amounts of spectrum, speed the rollout of next-generation wireless networks, and re-define network connectivity for years to come,” he said. “I’m confident these actions will lead to a cornucopia of unanticipated innovative uses, and generate tens of billions of dollars in economic activity.”