Despite calls for harmonized 5G spectrum at MWC, the U.S. and EU seem to be on different paths at least in the near term. Several spectrum bands were identified by the ITU WRC-15 for future 5G services, including three bands above 6GHz in the 24 GHz, 31 GHz and 40 GHz bands. Europe is currently focusing on sub-6GHz spectrum for initial 5G trials and deployments, including C-Band (3.4 – 3.8GHz), to be allocated for 5G across multiple markets. The EU Council recently adopted a decision which calls for the coordinated use of the 700 MHz band to drive the roll-out of 5G wireless technology and boost mobile broadband connectivity in all EU member states. As a result of this decision, European mobile operators will obtain exclusive access to the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) by June 2020, a timeframe that coincides with the expected deployment of 5G networks in Europe.
In the U.S., the FCC has been pushing for operators and their vendors to get a head start with 5G by unilaterally identifying new mmWave spectrum bands above 6GHz. The FCC’s Spectrum Frontiers proposed order was intended to establish a spectrum environment conducive to 5G investment. The FCC plans to license spectrum in the 28GHz, 37GHz and 39GHz bands on an exclusive-use, flexible-rights licensed basis, and has identified the 64-71GHz band for unlicensed experimental sharing or other non-exclusive access arrangements. The FCC has already allocated temporary spectrum licenses to mobile operators for field trials, and is planning to move forward with early auctions of licensed mmWave spectrum. 5G Americas recently published a white paper on 5G Spectrum Recommendations that highlights the importance of spectrum harmonization across licensed and unlicensed low-, mid- and high-band to support smooth 5G network deployments and delivery of 5G services.