FCC announces spectrum requirements for 5G

22 June 2016 |

The Federal Communications Commission has given its opinion on what the 5G radio requirements will be, and what the FCC is proposing to make the vision become reality

Speaking to the National Press Club, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler gave his opinions on what the 5G radio requirements will be, and what the FCC is proposing to make the vision become reality.

Wheeler said that speed, latency, and spectrum would be the keystones of the requirements. He announced the Spectrum Frontiers are proceeding plans on making more than 14 GHz of unlicensed spectrum available within which carriers can choose a 5G route.

For low band spectrum, used for 3G and 4G, 5 or 10 MHz blocks of spectrum have been auctioned off for carriers. Because of the higher frequency bands needed for 5G, substantially wider blocks of spectrum will be needed, and the FCC is proposing chunks of 200 MHz are sold off for US telcos. “This will allow networks to carry much more traffic per user – gigabits of throughput instead of megabits,” Wheeler said.

After auctioning off the spectrum, Wheeler plans to let US telcos get on with it. “Rule number one is that the technology should drive the policy rather than the policy drive the technology,” he said. “The future has a way of inventing itself. Turning innovators loose is far preferable to expecting committees and regulators to define the future. We won’t wait for the standards to be first developed in the sometimes arduous standards-setting process or in a government-led activity. Instead, we will make ample spectrum available and then rely on the private sector-led process for producing technical standards best suited for those frequencies and use cases.

Wheeler claims this light touch will allow the US to become the 5G leader, in the same way, it was “the world leader in 4G.”

Wheeler said that small cell deployment and the backhaul connection will present the biggest challenge for 5G, and that the latter will present as much as 50% of the Opex and Capex costs of operating the fifth generation wireless network. Plans are already underway with three of the four main wireless telcos in the US to forestall worries about the cost of infrastructure investment driving up prices for the 5G end-user.

There was little comment about how 5G will reach the rural land mass of the USA, beyond a call for satellite, terrestrial and wireless players to collaborate more.

The motion will go through the FCC for approval on the 14th July. Wheeler did concede, that 5G won’t be a one-off rollout but that constant innovation and change will be required to keep it successful.

“It is also important, however, to recognise that 5G technology will be in constant evolution,” he said. “It would be a mistake to think 5G can be frozen in a snapshot; it is more like a video with many new scenes, all building on each other. The systems and standards of 5G will be continually improving and evolving.”

The European Commission has opened a consultation on what the industry thinks 5G should be. It is running a survey which closes three days before the FCC intends to make its 5Gplans concrete.