US govt frees up 100MHz of mid-band spectrum to help operators ramp up 5G

Published: 11 August 2020 - midnight

The US government has revealed that it will make 100 MHz of contiguous mid-band spectrum available for use by the country’s mobile network operators to launch their 5G services.

The spectrum, which is in the much coveted 3.45-3.55 GHz band, will allow US operators to scale up their 5G networks. The licenses for the spectrum holdings will apply nationwide the US government said.

The mid-band spectrum is particularly sort after by operators as it enables higher speeds than low-band spectrum, whilst boasting far superior propagation rates than mmWave spectrum.

“I commend the President and Department of Defense for today’s announcement that the 3.45-3.55 GHz band will be made available for commercial 5G deployment. This is a key milestone in securing United States leadership in 5G. I also would like to thank FCC staff for their work to help create a framework that will promote 5G service in this important band. Together with the spectrum being made available for 5G in the C-band as well as the 3.5 GHz band, we are now on track to have a 530-megahertz swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G from 3.45 to 3.98 GHz. The FCC looks forward to moving quickly to adopt service rules for the 3.45 GHz band and then hold an auction to bring this prime mid-band spectrum to market,” FCC chairman, Ajit Pai said in a statement to the press.

The FCC is currently in the process of clearing further spectrum in the C-band (3.7 GHz – 4.2 GHz) and plans to repurpose 280MHz of spectrum for use for 5G are currently underway.

In the US, a large chunk of the C-band spectrum is currently utilised by satellite operators for television broadcasts.

“Satellite companies don’t need the entire C-band to provide the services they are providing today. They can provide the same services with less bandwidth, which would free up a significant amount of spectrum for 5G,” Pai said in February.

Under Chairman Pai’s proposal, the 280MHz of the band (3.7GHz-3.98GHz) would be cleared, ready to be auctioned off to mobile network operators in the near future.

The 20MHz above that would act as a guard or barrier (3.98GHz - 4.0GHz).

The existing satellite operators would have their spectrum holdings shifted and consolidated into the upper portion of the C-Band (4.0GHz – 4.2 GHz).

For agreeing to have their existing spectrum holdings repositioned, satellite operators will receive compensation of around $9.7 billion, to be paid by winning bidders in the C-Band auction. In order to qualify for the compensation, satellite operators must vacate the lowest 100 MHz of spectrum by the 30th September 2021, with the rest of the block being cleared by 30th September 2023.

The acquisition of C-Band spectrum would help US operators provide stronger more stable 5G connections than are available over their existing mmWave services.

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