5G Major market allocations and licenses

Release date:2018-01-11 Source: GSA

There has been vigorous activity in the 5G arena in some major telecom markets. Here we outline recent and upcoming activity by regulators and operators in China, Japan, South Korea, the USA, Australia, Europe and Brazil.

In November 2017, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued the frequency plan for the 3300–3400 MHz, 3400–3600 MHz, and 4800–5000 MHz bands for IMT-2020 (5G). It stated that the 3300–3400 MHz band would be for indoor use for 5G services. At the same time, a series of 5G 42 countries are holding consultations, or have reserved spectrum, or have announced plans to auction spectrum soon in bands suitable for 5G verification tests is being implemented by China’s IMT 2020 (5G) promotion group. The first two tests have been completed. The third set of verification tests will continue until September 2018. Many of the trials in these tests used C-band spectrum (largely around 3500 MHz), with the occasional test in the 26 GHz band.

In South Korea there has been much discussion of the use of pre-standards 5G networks and technology during the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will be held in PyeongChang. The country’s two largest operators – KT and SK Telekom– both plan live ‘5G’ networks for the event in February 2018. KT plans to use the 28 GHz band. SK Telecom has also been trialling the 28 GHz band for future 5G services, alongside the 3500 MHz band.

In Japan, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) has declared that the official 5G bands in the archipelago are 3700 MHz, 4500MHz (a maximum of 500 MHz in sub-6 GHz bands), and 28 GHz (a maximum allocation of 2 GHz bandwidth). Among the operators in the country there has been a broad mix of different spectrum used for trials, including 3500 MHz, 4500 MHz, 28 GHz, and 70 GHz.

The US decided in July 2016 to use mmWave spectrum for 5G services in the 28GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz bands for licensed services (3.85 GHz bandwidth) and 64–71GHz for unlicensed services. In November 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened an additional 1.7 GHz of spectrum in the 24 GHz and 47 GHz bands for mobile licensed use. It has also maintained all other spectrum allocations in the 28 GHz, 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands as well as the range between 64 GHz and 71 GHz. Currently, the US operators have confined their 5G trials to 28 GHz, 39 GHz and 15 GHz bands, with some of them also testing in 2.5 GHz spectrum. The US has completed an auction of 600 MHz for mobile operators and is in the process of clearing the bands; some early deployment has already commenced. The US has allocated 3550–3700 MHz for deployment under a spectrum access system (SAS) and is currently in the process of approving SAS; operation is expected in 2018 with auctions at a later date. The US has started considering 3700–4200 MHz, 5.925–6.425 GHz and 6.425–7.125 GHz for allocation. Rule-making is expected to progress in 2018. Canada is holding a consultation on a future auction in the 614–698 MHz band as well as considering mobile allocations in 28 GHz, 37 GHz; 39 GHz and 67–71 GHz.

Australia has focused initially on the 3400 MHz band. A process to distribute spectrum in that band is currently underway. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has also made public its plans to auction the 3600MHz band for 5G use in Oct–Dec 2018 and mmWave band in Jul–Sep 2019. Anauction of 1500 MHz spectrum is also expected to take place in Oct–Dec 2019. In the meantime, two of its leading operators – Telstra and Optus – have used the 26 GHz and 73 GHz bands respectively to conduct their latest 5G trials.

In Europe, considerable 5G preparatory work has focused on the 3400–3800MHz spectrum range. Italy looks set to be one of the most active countries in terms of 5G trials after its Ministry of Economic Development made frequencies available for trialling pre-standards 5G. Five leading operators in the country have expressed intent to trial 5G in the 3600–3800 MHz band. Many other spectrum bands are also being investigated for 5G though, including 700MHz, 1800 MHz, 2600 MHz, 4650–4850 MHz, 15 GHz, 24.25–29.5 GHz, as well as 70 GHz.

In Brazil, the telecom regulator (ANATEL) has declared the 3500 MHz as suitable for 5G. As a whole, South America has some catching up to do when it comes to 5G trials. Some of the few tests took place in late 2017 when Movistar Argentina used 28 GHz band to conduct a 5G lab test, achieving speeds of up to 20 Gbit/s, and Claro Chile began lab tests at 27 GHz.