Verizon fixed and mobile 5G services currently focused on millimeter wave spectrum
Verizon went to market with a millimeter wave-based fixed wireless access 5G service then expanded to mobile, also based on high-band frequencies. AT&T also used its millimeter wave to launch 5G. Sprint is tapping its 2.5 GHz holdings and T-Mo is planning nationwide covering at 600 MHz.
So, it’s a mixed bag in the U.S. in terms of early 5G spectrum strategy, but the long-term goal is using a mix of low-, mid- and high-band spectrum to provide the right mix of wide area coverage and ultra-high capacity. And that means different carriers need different things. Based on a recent meeting between Verizon and Ajit Pai, chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Big Red is eager to boost its mid-band holdings.
According to a notice of ex parte communication filed with the FCC on June 14, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg and William Johnson, SVP of federal regulatory and legal affairs, met two days earlier with Pai and his advisor Aaron Goldberger to discuss “expanding flexible use of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz band.”
From Johnson’s letter: “We noted that millimeter wave spectrum – the backbone of our current 5G offerings – is performing well and will be an important component of 5G in the United States and internationally. We reiterated that prompt access to midband spectrum is now critical to achieving the full promise of 5G, including more widespread 5G deployment and the full range of advanced capabilities made possible by 5G. Specifically, we encouraged the Commission to move forward quickly to make spectrum in the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz band available and to get a portion of this currently underutilized spectrum in the hands of 5G providers who stand ready to deploy.”
The FCC has opened up a ton of millimeter wave spectrum with back-to-back auctions earlier this year and two more set for 2020. During a recent Senate hearing, Pai said the regulatory agency is working to open up mid-band frequencies “as quickly as we can.”
There is some mid-band spectrum expected to come up for auction next year in the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service band, but it’s only 150 megahertz and it’s going to be made available based on a three-tiered prioritization scheme that allows incumbents users (mostly military) to maintain operations, while giving access to priority and general authorized users. So, not as much spectrum as carriers need and not solely dedicated to their use.
In virtually every other major mobile market in the world, the 5G launch strategy is based on mid-band spectrum with millimeter wave coming later.
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