The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering an auction to free up additional mid-band airwaves this October that would deliver 5G service to more Americans.
This consideration comes a year after the FCC approved a 100-megahertz swath in the 3.45-3.55 GHz portion of spectrum to be used for commercial applications of 5G. The auction of new mid-band waves, previously expected not to take place until at least December of 2021, has the potential to come as early as October based on the most recent proposal to be considered by the FCC on March 17th.
5G offers a wide range of economic benefits that would have a tremendous positive impact on the American economy, and investment in mid-band spectrum is a crucial part to unlocking those benefits. FCC officials need to keep the timeline of mid-band deployment on track to ensure the U.S. can remain the world leader in wireless connectivity.
Since mid-band offers the benefits within the sweet spot between high- and low-bands, investment in mid-band spectrum will be a significant part of the 5G future. Mid-band waves have longer distance signal range than high-band, and the ability to penetrate buildings and other barriers that are characteristic of low-band waves, while also offering the increased capacity for higher speeds and lower latencies that higher band spectrums provide.
This makes mid-band ideal in cities, where the density of people is much higher. Mid-band spectrum also allows for a higher degree of freedom for antenna directionality, which replaces the need for more large towers to cover an area. That can benefit faster deployment.
People in urban areas are not the only ones who would be able to reap the benefits of mid-band spectrum. Mid-band could also help close the digital divide. The deployment of mid-band in rural areas would deliver higher speeds than are currently provided, which would lead to improvements in agriculture and telehealth technologies.
Analysis Group estimates that due to the spectrum’s flexibility, providers will invest an excess of $154 billion in mid-band infrastructure, resulting in $274 billion in added GDP and 1.3 million new jobs.
Making more mid-band spectrum available is key to U.S. leadership in 5G. As in other nations are investing heavily in this area, the U.S. has not had widespread access to mid-band, compared to other nations. According to CTIA, Japan and China plan to release 10 and 7 times more mid-band than the United States in the next decade. Other nations like South Korea, Spain, Italy, and the U.K. also have already made hundreds of megahertz more available. The first-mover advantage in the next generation of wireless technology comes with large economic benefits that the U.S. will not be able to seize if these trends continue and U.S. does not take the lead.
Recon Analytics published a report in 2018 that showed that by leading the charge in 4G, the U.S. was able to build a global system that increased GDP and jobs in the industry by 80%. Being first in 4G also meant the U.S. shaped the experience of other countries implementing it. The evolution to 5G will provide even more benefits than the previous generation, making the potential gains well worth the investment into mid-band now.
The promise of 5G would mean new and improved services for both consumers and businesses alike. Not only would downloads be faster with lower latency and greater load capacity for data than present networks, but 5G would also open the door for improvements to be made in exciting new technologies like virtual reality and autonomous vehicles.
According to Boston Consulting Group, the impact of 5G deployment will contribute up to $1.7 trillion in GDP and create up to 4.6 million jobs by 2030 across industries in all regions of the country. 5G offers a tremendous opportunity for new growth, and the mid-band spectrum is a critical component to its success. The U.S. has the potential to unleash a wave of economic progress from 5G deployment, but mid-band must be an integral part of this future of investment.The FCC should ensure the October auction is on track so that the U.S. can catch up in the 5G race. Without investment in mid-band, the U.S. will not be able to meet the growing wireless data demands of consumers and America’s 5G network will fall further behind.