China’s Ministry of Industries and Information Technology (MIIT) issued a public consultation request dated June 5 seeking comment on plans to use the 3300-3600 MHz and 4800-5000 MHz bands for 5G, with 3300-3400 MHz limited to indoor use.
The 700 MHz spectrum is not part of this plan, but analysts at Jefferies said they don’t think that’s a cause for alarm. In a June 6 research note to investors, the analysts said they believe this consultation’s purpose is to ensure these currently available spectra are “truly clean and free.”
For the 700 MHz spectrum, since it has been allocated to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) for broadcasting purposes, it is technically “unavailable” or considered “not free,” they said.
“We continue to believe that Unicom will be able to reach an agreement with SAPPRFT, which will give it access to the latter’s 700 MHz spectrum in exchange for an equity stake in Unicom,” the analysts wrote. “The MIIT will then re-allocate the 700 MHz spectrum that has been freed up by SAPPRFT for 5G applications.”
Including the 100 MHz of spectrum restricted for providing indoor coverage, China’s MIIT plans to allocate a total of 500 MHz of spectrum for 5G, they noted.
“Although this is only similar in total spectrum size to the current 2G/3G/4G allocation for the three Chinese telcos, which is 507 MHz, the major difference is that the 5G spectrum being planned is contiguous spectrum (300 MHz contiguous between 3300 and 3600 MHz, and 200 MHz contiguous between 4800-5000 MHz), while the current allocation is split into small parcels between 800 MHz and 2600 MHz,” the analysts said. “The ITU suggested a minimum contiguous spectrum size of 100 MHz for genuine 5G services, and it is very difficult for most countries to find such spectrum at a low frequency level (below 3 GHz). That is why 5G will, in most cases, take place at a higher frequency level and become more expensive to build than 4G networks.”
In Europe, regulators decided that mobile operators will obtain exclusive access to the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) by June 30, 2020, coinciding with the expected deployment of 5G networks in Europe. Member states may, however, delay the reallocation by up to two years, but only in duly justified cases set out in the decision, according to the European Council of the European Commission.
In the U.S., the FCC last year voted unanimously to make spectrum bands above 24 GHz available for 5G, opening up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for mobile and fixed wireless broadband—3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum.
Regulations aside, T-Mobile USA more recently declared it’s going to be using the 600 MHz spectrum it won in the incentive auction for 5G, as well as the 200 MHz of spectrum it has in the 28/39 GHz bands. CTO Neville Ray said 5G can be deployed on any frequency, and in the future, all spectrum will be 5G spectrum running across low, mid and high-band.
Interestingly, T-Mobile also has been pressing the FCC to revisit the 3.5 GHz CBRS band to make it better aligned in the U.S. with global spectrum for 5G. Executives visited with the FCC recently to explain that the 3.5 GHz spectrum is a core band for 5G deployment around the world and that the U.S. will miss a huge opportunity if it doesn’t create a structure aligned with global 5G requirements.