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5G Spectrum Bands and Frequencies

(Paris, France - Hsi-Pin Ma)


 - Wave Spectrum Challenges with 5G

5G presents some new challenges for wireless operators. On one hand, 5G networks are intended to support faster mobile broadband speeds and lower latencies making new applications possible like on-demand video and autonomous vehicles. On the other hand, 5G will require wireless operators to have access to large amounts of spectrum to make these new services a reality. 

The GSMA, a global trade organization that represents mobile operators, recommends that regulators and government agencies that control 5G spectrum allocation make 80-100 MHz of contiguous spectrum available per operator in prime 5G bands and about 1 GHz of spectrum per operator available in millimeter wave bands. 

But spectrum is a scarce resource and that means that wireless operators around the world are most likely going to have to use a mix of low-band, mid-band, and high-band spectrum to deliver the type of 5G experience that their customers demand.


- 5G Spectrum Bands

Like other wireless connections, 5G does operate on the radio spectrum, but in a very different way from past wireless Internet options. It can run on the low-band, mid-band, or high-band spectrum, and different carriers are already busy experimenting with different bands using their own technology.

Perhaps the most apparent transformation taking place with 5G is the move towards an entirely new region of the radio spectrum. While existing frequency bands below 6 GHz will still play an important role in next-generation networks, the adoption of centimeter and millimeter wave bands (3-30 GHz and 30-300 GHz, respectively) will be critical to the delivery of consistent, multi-Gbps throughput. 

Some of this spectrum, such as the 60 GHz band, is expected to remain unlicensed in many jurisdictions, and is only very lightly used by other radio access technologies such as 802.11ad (commonly known as WiGig), and may provide a nearly global baseline for 5G access. Meanwhile, the 28 and 39 GHz bands, will likely be available through regulatory licensing. This potential capacity will be a key enabler for use cases ranging from dense IoT deployments to ubiquitous mobile 4K and 8K video-on-demand.


- Three Types of 5G

Unlike LTE, 5G operates on three different spectrum bands (low-band, mid-band, and millimeter wave). There are three types of 5G being built in the U.S. including low-band, mid-band and high-band mmWave 5G.

Low-band spectrum can also be described as sub 1GHz spectrum. It is primarily the spectrum band used by carriers in the U.S. for LTE, and is quickly becoming depleted. While low-band spectrum offers great coverage area and penetration, there is a big drawback: Peak data speeds will top out around 100Mbps. 

Mid-band spectrum provides faster coverage and lower latency than you’ll find on low-band. It does, however, fail to penetrate buildings as well as low-band spectrum. Expect peak speeds up to 1Gbps on mid-band spectrum. 

High-band spectrum is what most people think of when they think of 5G. It is often referred to as mmWave. High-band spectrum can offer peak speeds up to 10 Gbps and has very low latency. The major drawback of high-band is that it has low coverage area and building penetration is poor.

Small cells are low-power base stations that cover small geographic areas. With small cells, carriers using mmWave for 5G can improve overall coverage area. Combined with Beamforming, small cells can deliver very extremely fast coverage with low latency.



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