5G is coming to the US, as soon as the end of this year depending on who you listen to. But in order for 5G to really work, it’s going to have to combine traditional low-band and mid-band cellular spectrum with high-band spectrum, which up until now hasn’t been widely used for wireless communications.
As with any time companies want to blast public airspace with electromagnetic radiation, the Federal Communications Commission needs to regulate things first. Most importantly, the FCC needs to sell licenses to particular bits of high-band spectrum so that wireless networks can start building out their networks. We’ve known that a spectrum auction is coming for quite a while, but we finally have a date: November 14th.
At its April meeting, the FCC voted unanimously to auction off licenses for the 28GHz spectrum on November 14th. Another auction for 24GHz spectrum will follow immediately afterwards. All told, the FCC is hoping to sell 6,000 individual licenses for different chunks of spectrum in different geographic locations.
“It’s important to mention that we will be able to commence spectrum auctions later this year because of recent legislative action,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “I’m grateful to Congress for passing, and the President for signing, legislation fixing a technical problem involving upfront payments by auction bidders for spectrum.”
Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel had some harsher words for the FCC, however. “It is troubling that this agency has watched as South Korea, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Romania have already announced plans for 5G auctions,” she said. “Today, thankfully, this agency takes steps to put ourselves back in the running. I’m glad my colleagues are ready to get back on track. Today we schedule our first 5G auction and finally get out of the starting gate.”
The CTIA, a telecoms industry body, said it “applauds the FCC for moving forward with the first high-band spectrum auctions for 5G use. Spectrum availability is a key input in the readiness and ability of the U.S. to win the global race to 5G. We look forward to working with the Commission on implementing these critical auctions and on identifying and auctioning additional bands, including mid-band spectrum, to power the wireless networks of the future.”