The Department of Defense (DOD) and the White House said today that 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum between 3.45 and 3.55 GHz will be made available for commercial use. In a statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the commission will “move quickly” to auction the mid-band spectrum for 5G.
Mid-band spectrum is widely considered to support the optimum mixture of speed and coverage for 5G services. According to a report from Multichannel News, the new 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum could be available for commercial use by mid-2022.
Mid-Band Spectrum for 5G
An FCC notice of proposed rulemaking adopted in late 2019 sought input on making spectrum between 3.1 and 3.55 GHz available for commercial use. At that time, the commission noted that spectrum in that band was “allocated for non-federal secondary radiolocation services and amateur use.”
In his statement, Pai noted that when combined with spectrum already being made available for 5G in the 3.5 GHz band and C-band, “we are now on track to have a 530-megahertz swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G from 3.45 to 3.98 GHz.”
The 3.5 GHz band, also known as the CBRS band, is currently the subject of an auction that started only two weeks ago and already has raised more than $3 billion, exceeding some revenue forecasts for the entire auction – a development that underscores the notion that mid-band spectrum is seen as highly valuable for 5G.
Spectrum in the CBRS band will be shared with incumbent military users, with a spectrum access system (SAS) preventing commercial users from using the spectrum when and where it is in use by the military. But it doesn’t appear that the new spectrum will require the use of a SAS.
The FCC NPRM about the 3.1-3.55 band sought input on relocating the existing non-federal users, rather than sharing spectrum with them. And according to the Multichannel News report, the new 100 MHz of spectrum will be for “contiguous, coast-to-coast deployment at full power levels.”