5G services: Another FCC auction to jumpstart carrier deployments

The Federal Communications Commission plans yet another auction of radio-frequency spectrum suitable for delivering 5G services and continues to scrutinize the security of 5G infrastructure made in China, both of which will affect how quickly 5G services are deployed.

The commission says it will seek bids on licensing another 100MHz swath of RF spectrum in the 3.4GHz mid-band range, which lies close to the C-band frequencies that were auctioned off late last year, and will impose stiff build-out requirements on winning bidders in order to get 5G infrastructure up and running quickly.

“[D]uring the past few years the United States was slow, relative to other countries, to recognize the importance of mid-band spectrum for 5G,” said acting FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. “So mid-band spectrum has been the critical component that is missing, and our action here helps fix that.”

This is a continuation of long-standing plans to open more spectrum for 5G use, but ABI Research analyst Leo Gergs said the timing of the announcements marks a subtle shift. “What the new administration has done has accelerated these plans,” Gergs said.

He also noted that the new spectrum is adjacent to Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) range auctioned off last summer, some of it to enterprises. “[I]t opens up new opportunities to combine that spectrum, so an enterprise could go with an operator that has some of this spectrum and then be able to combine it with CBRS resources to have even more opportunity for higher-bandwidth applications.”

The new 100MHz of spectrum lies between 3.45GHz and 3.55GHz and will be divided into 10 bands of 10MHz each that will be licensed for each of 4,060 FCC-defined geographic areas. By doing so, it’s likely bidders—particularly major carriers with deep pockets—will pick and choose which geographies they bid for. “We will auction this spectrum in smaller blocks in order to encourage broader participation from smaller providers and create more opportunities to win licenses,” said Rosenworcel.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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