ITU: mobile networks want some C- and Ka-band spectrum for 5G
PARIS — The mobile network operators that strove with limited success to obtain large chunks of C-band spectrum two years ago in Geneva will try again in 2019 to secure more spectrum for future 5G networks.
Higher frequencies, including some of the Ka-band spectrum favored by numerous high-throughput satellite projects today, have also caught the eyes of mobile operators for 5G, Francois Rancy, the International Telecommunication Union’s Radiocommunication Bureau director, said at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week conference here Sept. 13.
Those terrestrial companies, along with regulatory bodies and related organizations, are formalizing their positions on spectrum allocations ahead of the ITU’s next World Radiocommunications Conference in November 2019, referred to as WRC-19. Held in Geneva, WRC conclaves are where decisions are made on who has rights to the finite but increasingly in-demand spectrum resources needed by the entire telecommunications industry.
“What is on the agenda of the conference is actually a total of more than 30 GHz of spectrum bandwidth, which means about 15 times what is currently used by 2G, 3G and 4G now,” Rancy said. “So we are speaking about a huge amount of spectrum.”
Rancy said the mobile industry, as was the case at WRC-07 and WRC-15, finds greatest interest in harmonized spectrum, that is, bands already prescribed for the same purpose either globally or across large geographic areas.
“The bands which are already harmonized, like satellite bands or the broadcasting bands, those are very good candidates for this purpose,” he said.
For the 3.4 to 4.2 GHz of spectrum that comprises C-band, mobile network operators gained limited access to the lower portion —3.4 to 3.6 GHz — during WRC-07. At WRC-15, the mobile industry obtained near-global access to that spectrum, as well as access to 3.6 to 3.7 GHz in a small number of countries.
Gilles Bregant, general director of France’s National Frequency Agency ANFR, said there is now, particularly in Europe, a clear desire to purpose 3.4 to 3.8 GHz — half of C-band — for 5G. Europe also wants to designate 26 GHz, the lower portion of Ka-band (which stretches from 26 to 40 GHz) for 5G, he said, though the United States, Japan and South Korea feel differently. Rancy said those three nations, desire to use 28 GHz for 5G.
Rancy said 26 GHz offers more spectrum for 5G than 28 GHz — over 2 GHz compared to a few hundred megahertz — and that regional regulatory organizations including the Arab Spectrum Management Group and the Eastern Europe/Central Asia-focused Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications, “have targeted 26 GHz bands as one of the options.”
The conflict over C- and Ka-band is all but guaranteed to cause sparring between satellite and mobile network operators, but Rancy emphasized that the goals of 5G will provide meaningful opportunity for both industries. Compared to previous generations of wireless networks, 5G is meant to enable both people and things “to connect anywhere, to connect anything and connect at anytime,” he said.
“Basically it has overarching ambition of connecting everything,” Rancy said.
That ambition isn’t possible without satellites, he added. Rural and suburban areas, mobile platforms such as aircraft and ships, and certain Internet of Things devices will all fall outside the range of terrestrial telecommunications systems.
“I think 5G will be a cooperative undertaking by the mobile broadband community and by the satellite community and HAPS [High Altitude Platform Stations] as well to provide a ubiquitous service for broadband. I think it’s an opportunity for the satellite industry to be part of this undertaking, a major one to provide 5G everywhere to everything, not only everyone,” he said.
Rancy also highlighted desire for higher frequency spectrum as unique, saying that “the number of earth stations required to produce the same coverage as we currently have at 2 GHz is at least 100 times more.”
“This spectrum is not going to be usable to provide coverage. It is mainly intended to provide larger capacity in urban areas, and I see that as a new element of the discussion,” he said.