US to free up 280MHz of C-Band spectrum for 5G use

Published: 11 February 2020 - 5:59 a.m.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, has revealed plans to repurpose 280MHz of spectrum for use by the country’s mobile network operators for use in their 5G networks.

The C-Band spectrum, which is a 500 Megahertz chunk of spectrum that falls between the 3.7GHz and 4.2GHz bands. It is particularly coveted by mobile network operators for 5G usage because it enables higher speeds than low-band spectrum, whilst boasting far superior propagation rates than mmWave spectrum.

In Europe, nearly all operators have launched their initial 5G offerings on C-Band (or similar mid-band) spectrum. However, in the US the 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 a statement published online.

Under Chairman Pai’s proposal, the lower 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 100MHz 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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