5G Americas has outlined a comprehensive strategic roadmap for the deployment of 5G-Advanced and the anticipated 6G spectrum, addressing the need for additional spectrum to meet evolving use cases beyond 2030.
A recent white paper from 5G Americas underscores the significance of identifying new spectrum within the 3-15.35 GHz range, with a preference for frequencies below 10 GHz due to favorable propagation characteristics.
Current 5G and 5G-Advanced standards support bands below 7.125 GHz and above 24 GHz, while the forthcoming 6G standard is expected to operate across all these bands and additionally support the 7.125 GHz – 24 GHz range.
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference in 2023 marked a pivotal moment by adopting a new agenda item focusing on the spectrum pipeline within the 4.4-15.35 GHz range for the next generation of wireless technology.
The deployment of 5G networks, spanning low-band (below 1 GHz), mid-band (1 to 7 GHz), and high-band (mmWave bands above 24 GHz), is discussed in the paper. Mid-band spectrum is emphasized as the most desirable for striking the optimal capacity/coverage tradeoff, particularly for enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) services. The ongoing regulatory discussions are deemed crucial for allocating new spectrum, which is essential for the anticipated deployment of new mobile networks by the end of the decade.
The following upper mid-band ranges are recommended to be considered for the evolution of 5G spectrum pipeline
3.1-3.3 GHz: Recommended in the U.S. as suitable to provide desired coverage and capacity.
4.4 – 4.8 GHz: Recommended to study for IMT in Regions 1 and 3 as suitable to provide desired capacity/coverage trade off.
7.125 GHz – 8.5 GHz: Recommended to study for IMT in Regions 2 and 3.
7.125 – 7.25 GHz and 7.75 – 8.4 GHz, is recommended to study for IMT in Region 1. Most suitable to provide desired capacity/coverage trade off.
12.7 GHz – 13.25 GHz: Recommended for mobile service in the U.S. This is more challenging to ensure coverage than in the lower end of the upper mid-band.
14.75 GHz – 15.35 GHz: Recommended to study for IMT globally, across all 3 ITU Regions. This is more challenging to ensure coverage than in the lower end of the upper mid-band.
The white paper sheds light on the current status of mid-band spectrum availability globally. According to a Cellular Telephone Industry Association study, the U.S. ranks 13th among 15 leading markets in terms of available licensed mid-band spectrum. While the U.S. has allocated 450 MHz in the 3-7 GHz range, other countries like Japan, the UK, and China boast more substantial mid-band spectrum allocations, with China also considering the upper 700 MHz of the 6 GHz band for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT).
Highlighting the significance of high-band frequencies (mmWave), the paper notes that the U.S. currently leads in allocated high-band spectrum, facilitating the deployment of 5G mmWave services in multiple cities. The Global System for Mobile Communications Association has initiated a global accelerator initiative to further propel 5G mmWave technology, enabling widespread connectivity and supporting increased mobile data demand.
In addition, the paper underscores the role of low-band spectrum in providing optimal coverage and indoor penetration. While the U.S. currently leads in allocated low-band spectrum compared to other global markets, projections suggest potential challenges in maintaining this lead over the next five years without additional efforts to open up fresh low-band spectrum.