February 3, 2020
2020 is the Year of Mid-Band .
I’m often asked what is the most important thing we can do to promote 5G in the U.S. It’s mid-band spectrum, and, as a nation, we all need to get behind FCC Chairman Pai’s approach to moving forward with the auctioning of 350 MHz this year. The FCC delivered in 2019 with three historic high-band auctions, and if we can all come together we can have similar success in 2020 for mid-band spectrum. The good news is making more licensed spectrum available to lead the emerging 5G economy enjoys bipartisan support at the FCC, on Capitol Hill, and in the Administration.
A new report released today highlights the urgency. While other countries are making significant amounts of licensed, mid-band spectrum available to power 5G networks, the U.S. is an “outlier” in its approach.
This matters because other countries are projected to have four times more mid-band spectrum available by the end of 2020. Today’s study also found that the U.S. is also the only country releasing mid-band on a shared basis.
Why is mid-band (3 GHz to 24 GHz) so important? 5G networks need a mix of high-, mid- and low-band spectrum. Low-band carries signals over long distances. High-band travels much shorter distances, but offers the greater capacity required for data-intensive applications. Mid-band blends the attributes of both, delivering high capacity across larger geographic areas.
Today, 30 of 36 active 5G networks launched around the world last year use mid-band. In Japan, carriers are already working with 800MHz of mid-band while carriers in China and South Korea have access to 300MHz and 280MHz respectively. Here in the U.S. that number right now is zero.
We’ve made a lot of progress on 5G in the last two years, but as these numbers show, there’s still a lot of work to do – and we need to move quickly.
How much mid-band do we need? I’ll put a number on it: we need 350 megahertz of spectrum freed up this year just to catch up to our rivals.
That’s why we are urging policymakers to auction 280 megahertz of the C-band this year and push to make this spectrum available for 5G as soon as possible. And it’s why we’ve commended the FCC for its commitment to a June auction of 70 megahertz in the CBRS band. This will be the first swath of mid-band spectrum to become available in the U.S., a key development even with the unique challenges posed by the band with its novel sharing arrangement and lower power levels.
Combined, these two bands will get us that 350 megahertz target. If we act now.
That is step one. We can’t stop there as twenty-four other nations are also planning mid-band auctions this year. South Korea just announced plans to make another 320MHz of mid-band spectrum available (600MHz total), Japan plans to auction another 200MHz (1000 MHz total) and China is looking at freeing up hundreds of additional MHz of mid-band.
If the U.S. wants to remain a 5G leader and unlock the 5G economy, we need to identify more licensed mid-band spectrum, beyond the 3.5 and 3.7 GHz bands.
To that end, we should seize the unique opportunity in the 6 GHz band to bring both unlicensed and licensed spectrum to market. And as Congress and the FCC have noted, the 3.1-355 GHz band can, and should, play a crucial role in our nation’s 5G goals.
Today’s report does highlight when the U.S. focuses on spectrum goals and works cooperatively we are formidable. We maintain a leadership position in low- and high-band as other countries seek to replicate our success.
So we have our target for 2020, and I’m confident we can get there. As the author of today’s report said, “More licensed spectrum, particularly in the mid-band, is critical if the U.S. wants to maintain its wireless leadership.” I couldn’t have said it better. Let’s all work together so we can make 2020 the “Year of Mid-Band” so Americans can experience the benefits that 5G promises.