Nokia urges U.S. to hurry up and set spectrum auction calendar for 5G

Nokia sign at MWC18
Nokia says additional spectrum needs to be allocated and put into use quickly to meet the increased capacity and coverage demands of 5G. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

Nokia representatives are following the lead of CEO Rajeev Suri in calling for the U.S. to get busy in auctioning midband and millimeter wave spectrum for 5G, including the 3.7-4.2 GHz band.

Specifically, Nokia’s Brian Hendricks, head of policy and government relations for the Americas region, and Jeffrey Marks, senior counsel of policy and regulatory, met last week with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's senior counsel and adviser to discuss how the commission could establish a timeline for auctioning midband and millimeter wave spectrum bands through at least the next two years.  

Nokia’s position is that although U.S. operators currently hold significant spectrum and will begin deployments in a range of bands, including 600 MHz and millimeter wave bands, there are questions about whether the amount of spectrum available will allow the evolution from early 5G (2 Gbit/s data rates) to full 5G that Nokia expects will have data rates upwards of 20 Gbit/s.

They point out that China will be making huge blocks of midband spectrum available to operators (80-100 MHz each) while South Korea is moving forward with both midband and millimeter wave auctions in 2018. For the U.S. to future-proof 5G, operators will need substantially more spectrum, according to a Nokia position paper (PDF).

And although the Nokia representatives commended the commission for priming the spectrum pipeline by conducting proceedings and issuing service rules for new spectrum bands, they noted the commission is not moving quickly enough and should expedite auctions, according to an ex parte filing (PDF).

“With U.S. global competitiveness at stake, we must drive aggressively toward 5G deployment,” Nokia said.

Interestingly and not surprisingly, Nokia opposes the proposal of Intel/Intelsat to unlock a limited amount of 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum at Intelsat’s discretion, saying it’s not sufficient to meet the needs of wireless operators or to keep the U.S. competitive with the emerging 5G plans in China and other parts of Asia. Therefore, Nokia said, it’s studying additional options to present to the commission.

Their statements echo the message that Nokia’s CEO delivered during a Nokia event on the eve of Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, in which he implored the U.S. to be more aggressive on spectrum and to make 100 megahertz available per operator in the midbands, particularly in the 3-4 GHz range, to complement the low and high bands that already are available. “This should be an urgent priority for policy makers in the U.S.,” Suri said.

RELATED: Nokia CEO: U.S., China lead 5G race, but U.S. needs to make midband spectrum available

With respect to the 3.5 GHz band, Nokia is advising the commission to complete the current proceeding as quickly as possible and expedite processing and approving proposals for Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrators, including Nokia’s own SAS application. Especially because no auction is required for the General Authorized Access (GAA) portion of the band, 3.5 GHz could be a possible first mover in terms of new midband spectrum coming online, according to Nokia.

Regarding Priority Access Licenses (PALs), Nokia said the commission should not delay the development of auction rules and the auction for PALs until after auctions for the millimeter wave bands are conducted. Rather, the commission should lay the groundwork for the auction of multiple bands simultaneously, so that 3.5 GHz auctions don’t slip into 2020.

That’s along the same lines as the argument (PDF) from T-Mobile, which is urging the commission to conduct an auction of multiple bands of millimeter wave spectrum at the same time. In fact, T-Mobile suggests the commission move quickly to auction all the millimeter bands allocated for terrestrial mobile use in the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, including multiple, if not all, of those bands together in an initial millimeter wave auction. That includes the 24 GHz, 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands.

T-Mobile noted that auctioning all of the spectrum together is particularly important to promoting more competition among wireless providers—including with respect to wireless carriers that have already obtained millimeter wave spectrum—and to hastening American leadership on 5G services.

RELATED: FCC chief wants to auction 28 GHz spectrum this November

Chairman Pai announced at MWC18 that it’s his intention for the United States to hold a 28 GHz auction beginning in November, followed immediately thereafter by an auction of spectrum in the 24 GHz band. The FCC is expected to seek public input on the proposal this spring.

He also made it clear that in order for an auction to start in November, Congress needs to pass legislation by May 13 addressing the upfront payment issue. That’s the one technical issue that has snarled the FCC’s ability to get an auction underway as Pai has insisted it boils down to a legal issue.

RELATED: Rosenworcel: U.S. needs to plan next spectrum auction now or risk ceding 5G leadership to other nations

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced last month that it is coordinating with the Department of Defense (DOD) and other federal agencies to potentially release 100 megahertz of spectrum in the 3450-3550 MHz band for commercial wireless purposes. Being that it's adjacent to the 3.5 GHz CBRS band makes it even more appealing for terrestrial wireless.