FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler laid out his proposal for 5G spectrum allocation that he hopes will be approved by Congress on July 14. It is a comprehensive plan to designate spectrum in the low frequency bands, develop more mid-band frequencies in the crowed areas currently used and a gives specific focus to high frequency bands in the mmWave range. He stated that we will be the first in the world to approve these types of measures if Congress gives their approval next month. The proposal is called Spectrum Frontiers and Wheeler compared this time period to the early sixties that spurred the space race and initial concepts for the Internet as an opportunity to take a big leap in technology.
A year ago it seemed like other countries were more active in addressing 5G activities but this year US companies have stepped up the pace by announcing trials with key partners and even doing large scale demonstrations like Sprint’s recent 73 GHz wide scale 5G demo at the Copa América soccer tournament in Santa Clara, CA. Fans were able to experience real-time virtual reality and stream 4K video. Now the FCC is moving quickly to give the US a leg up on the competition from other countries. The plan for higher frequencies is to allocate thousands of megahertz of millimeter wave spectrum at 28, 37 and 39 GHz for licensed use, and at 64-71 GHz (and up) for unlicensed use. The plan will have moved from proposal stage to decision in nine short months if approved by Congress.
Wheeler stated that “unlike some countries, we do not believe we should spend the next couple of years studying what 5G should be, how it should operate, and how to allocate spectrum, based on those assumptions.” He believes that we should let innovators loose rather than expecting committees and regulators to define the future. He further elaborated that we should make ample spectrum available and then let the private sector lead the process for technical standards best suited for those frequencies and use cases - he wants to allocate the spectrum and then “get out of the way.” This is what the FCC did when it decided to take a leadership role in the development of 4G, and it is following the same process with 5G.
The FCC Chairman emphasized that we need to push the computing to the cloud to take advantage of that processing power to deliver new applications. He also said this would require greater use of small cells and that security would be a critical element. He cited some applications that require high capacity and low latency such as remote surgery, connected cars and distance learning. He stated that bandwidths would be 200 MHz versus today’s 20 MHz and speeds would be Gbps instead of today’s Mbps (5G is aiming for high data rates of 10 Gbps, expanded coverage with billions of connections and low latency of a few milliseconds or less). We hope this will be approved quickly!