September 28, 2022
Three Mid-band Spectrum Bands Offer Greatest Potential to Meet 5G Demand in the US, Study Finds
WASHINGTON, D.C.; Sept. 28, 2022 — Three mid-range spectrum bands offer the greatest potential for addressing the spectrum imbalance facing the US commercial wireless industry, according to a new Accenture (NYSE: ACN) study commissioned by CTIA, the wireless industry association.
The report, titled Spectrum Allocation in the United States, analyzes the current state of radio spectrum allocation, the increasing need for licensed spectrum in the wireless industry and the paths forward to support mobile broadband and 5G network expansion.
“More licensed mid-band spectrum is needed to meet growing wireless network demand,” said Tejas Rao, managing director, Accenture. “Commercial access to the bands described in our study would help scale 5G, giving more people access to consistent and good internet connectivity needed for things like online schooling, remote work and telemedicine.”
According to the study, the US wireless industry currently has access to 5% of lower mid-band spectrum, while unlicensed spectrum users have access to 7x and government users have access to 12x that amount. The study finds that the following three blocks of lower mid-band spectrum offer the greatest potential for 5G expansion:
- 350 MHz in the 3.1-4.5 GHz band: The lower 3 GHz band offers reliable coverage and adequate range of coverage, making it ideal for 5G data traffic. This band is adjacent to the recently auctioned 3.45 GHz band, which would help drive lower costs for device manufacturers when developing products for a wider contiguous band.
- 400 MHz in the 4.4-4.94 GHz band: The mid 4 GHz band is a wide contiguous block of spectrum that provides high capacity for 5G networks. It has been allocated to wireless carriers in many other nations, meaning a similar allocation in the US would support international harmonization efforts yielding cost benefits.
- 400 MHz in the 7.125-8.4 GHz band: The 7 to 8.4 GHz range is a significant block of higher frequency contiguous spectrum. The capacity characteristics of this range make it ideal for serving densely populated areas such as urban centers, where traffic requirements are greater.
Allocating these three bands for commercial wireless use would result in unlicensed users having access to 1.19x and government users having access to 1.34x the amount of spectrum as commercial wireless users.
“America has the world’s leading 5G networks but with data growth doubling every year we need a pipeline of mid-band spectrum to keep up with demand,” said Meredith Atwell Baker, president and CEO, CTIA. “Mid-band spectrum is key to building 5G networks because of its blend of capacity and range. This study details why balancing government and commercial spectrum access is critical to maintaining and securing our leadership of the emerging 5G economy.”
According to another recent commissioned CTIA report, other countries lead the US with an average of 530 MHz of lower mid-band spectrum available for commercial wireless networks. Without government action, the US is projected to continue to trail by an average of 413 MHz in five years’ time.
Accenture examined the current state of spectrum allocation in the US, across 4 groupings of bands, which for the purposes of this report have been defined as: Low-Band (0.3 – 3 GHz), Lower Mid-Band (3 – 8.4 GHz), Upper Mid-Band (8.4 – 24 GHz), and High-Band. Each MHz of spectrum was categorized by stakeholder and use. To conduct this analysis a combined data set was constructed by with data sourced from the NTIA Spectrum Allocation Chart, FCC Spectrum Auctions since 1994, the FCC Code of Federal Regulations (Title 47, Part 15), FCC information on specific bands and band plans, and the FCC ULS Database, to create a holistic view on the spectrum allocation landscape as it stands at a point in time.
A copy of the report can be downloaded here.
CTIA® (www.ctia.org) represents the U.S. wireless communications industry and the companies throughout the mobile ecosystem that enable Americans to lead a 21st century connected life. The association’s members include wireless carriers, device manufacturers, suppliers as well as apps and content companies. CTIA vigorously advocates at all levels of government for policies that foster continued wireless innovation and investment. The association also coordinates the industry’s voluntary best practices, hosts educational events that promote the wireless industry and co-produces the industry’s leading wireless tradeshow. CTIA was founded in 1984 and is based in Washington, D.C.
Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries, we offer Strategy and Consulting, Technology and Operations services and Accenture Song — all powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Our 721,000 people deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving clients in more than 120 countries. We embrace the power of change to create value and shared success for our clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities. Visit us at accenture.com.
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