In his keynote at Mobile World Congress Americas, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri reiterated his message that the U.S. needs to get the ball rolling in a big way on midband spectrum—not only the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band but also the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, also known as the lower C-band.
Although efforts are underway at the FCC in various stages, the U.S. ranks sixth in terms of midband spectrum and China ranks first, according to Suri.
Granted, U.S. operators are doing a great job using the spectrum they’ve got, but they need midband spectrum for its capacity and coverage benefits. “It’s the sweet spot in spectrum,” he told FierceWirelessTech.
“I think 3.5 will not be the game changer,” he said, but it will be an incremental opportunity and the rules need to get finalized. The real deal is the 3.7-4.2 GHz, in part because it has the potential of offering 100 megahertz of spectrum per carrier, which is the amount that makes it worthwhile for 5G. In addition, many other countries are allocating 3.5 GHz in 100 MHz increments.
He’s far from alone in his assessment of the 3.5 GHz band. Craig Cowden, senior vice president at Charter Communications, spoke during the CBRS Alliance’s “Catch the #OnGo Wave” session at MWCA18. While Wi-Fi will always be part of the services that Charter offers, and it’s also “very interested in CBRS,” he called the 3.7-4.2 GHz band the “true Goldilocks spectrum for 5G mobility.”
“We do look at lower C-band,” which is not right around the corner, as is the case with 3.5 GHz, but it’s adjacent to 3.5 CBRS and it offers another potential way to add capacity to rural broadband over time. “I do think millimeter wave has some propagation issues that will limit its effectiveness in terms of a true mobility layer,” meaning it will be used as more of a hotspot type of service in areas of high traffic. “I think this midband spectrum, 3.7-4.2, is the right mix of enough bandwidth to be used for 5G” with wider channels and better RF propagation.
The FCC voted in July to seek further comment on ways to free up spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band for 5G. The Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that the commission adopted identifies new opportunities for flexible use in up to 500 megahertz of spectrum between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz. The commission is also seeking more details on the current satellite users in the band.