It’s no secret that the U.S. wireless industry is hungry for mid-band spectrum for 5G, and a new National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) report determined 100 MHz in the 3.1-3.55 GHz band looks most viable for near-term sharing with commercial wireless services.
Specifically, the NTIA concluded the 3.45-3.55 GHz portion is “a good candidate for potential spectrum sharing, including the commercial power levels sought by the wireless industry.” The report follows a technical analysis released in January that found “a clear possibility” for real-time spectrum sharing to protect federal operations in the band. Federal users such as the Department of Defense (DoD) already occupy those frequencies, including shipborne, airborne, and land-based operations, mainly using radar systems.
NTIA’s second main finding in its report (PDF) to Congress determined some sharing could be possible below 3.45 GHz. But it noted that both classified and unclassified federal operations already using the frequencies “could be problematic for sharing with a commercial wireless system.” This could be exacerbated if federal users are shifted down from 3.45-3.55 GHz to make room for commercial services, according to the report.
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Ultimately, the report says more study is needed to look at different sharing mechanisms and potentially relocating some federal users to lower portions of the band. NTIA’s report didn’t differentiate between licensed and unlicensed users.
Still, at least one commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) didn’t think the new report went far enough.
FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said on Twitter that NTIA’s report was “weak” and “harms US 5G readiness.”
NTIA’s 3.1 to 3.55 GHz report is weak & harms US 5G readiness. Consensus is top 100 should be cleared for commercial licenses, as should second 100, with sharing below. Report extends decades old agency slow-rolling. Need Admin to rectify so there is #NextSpectrumPipeline— Mike O’Rielly (@mikeofcc) July 7, 2020
Last December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed clearing non-federal users from the 3.3-3.55 GHz portion, and to prepare the band to potentially give commercial users access to 250 megahertz of mid-band spectrum.
5G Americas President Chris Pearson in a statement said the organization was happy with NTIA’s recommendation, but indicated more spectrum is still needed.
“We are pleased that NTIA has recommended commercial access in the upper 100 MHz of the 3.1-3.55 GHZ band. Yet over 70 countries from around the world have agreed to target spectrum for 5G at 3.3 GHz and up, often with 200, 300 or more MHz of spectrum, since 3 GHz is a sweet spot for both coverage and capacity,” Pearson stated. “It is important for the federal agencies to free up more mid-band spectrum for the mobile industry to reach the full potential of 5G. Now that NTIA has issued its report on the full 3.1 - 3.55 GHz band, it is critical that the federal agencies work closely with industry at successful solutions to free up more spectrum in the band.”