5G is the next generation of mobile and wireless broadband technology, capable of ultra-fast speeds, low latency and excellent reliability. 5G networks will deliver fixed and mobile broadband services to end users “on the go”, at home or in the office. The 5G New Radio (5G-NR) interface, with capability for low latency and ultra-reliable connections will address a massive number of devices with very different connectivity requirements that make up the Internet of Things (IoT), including industrial applications, advanced logistics and utility networks.
A multi-layer spectrum approach is required to address such a wide range of usage scenarios and requirements:
5G networks will leverage the availability of spectrum from these three layers at the same time: Administrations should focus on making available contiguous spectrum in all layers in parallel, to the greatest extent possible.
The C-band (3300-4200 and 4400-5000 MHz) is emerging as the primary frequency band for the introduction of 5G by 2020, providing an optimal balance between coverage and capacity for cost efficient implementation. The availability of at least 100 MHz channel bandwidth per 5G network with the adoption of massive MIMO will boost peak, average and cell edge throughput with affordable complexity. Lower frequencies already licensed for mobile use (e.g. 700, 800, 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz) may be exploited in combination with 3300-3800 MHz (utilising the LTE/NR uplink co-existence feature of 3GPP standards) allowing operators to benefit from faster and cost-efficient deployment of C-band, thus delivering enhanced capacity without incurring network densification costs.
The high frequencies will complement the lower frequencies by addressing specific use cases (e.g. WTTx and hotspot) requiring extremely high data rates
High frequencies (above 6 GHz) will also play an important role for 5G in meeting the ITU-R IMT-2020 vision: at least 800 MHz of contiguous spectrum per 5G network should be available to meet the 5G requirement of very high capacity, especially in hotspot areas as well as for fixed broadband fibre-like connectivity (“WTTx”). The 24.25–29.5 GHz and the 37-43.5 GHz bands are the most promising for 5G deployments requiring coordinated efforts from all regions and countries to reach a global harmonisation for 5G use.
3GPP has already identified initial bands for the 5G-NR as well as band combinations for LTE/NR uplink co-existence and dual connectivity. Release 15 of the 3GPP 5G-NR specifications will be ready by June 2018, which will support the launch of commercial networks from 2020 in leading markets including Europe, China, Japan, South Korea and USA. Several key technological innovations are being introduced in the 3GPP Release 15 specifications and are being implemented and tested in 5G trials.
Regulatory frameworks for the available mobile communication bands need to be reviewed and new frameworks need to be established for 5G-NR deployment in new frequency bands. These frameworks will facilitate innovation by removing any potential barriers to the introductions of key 5G innovations. For example:
A globally harmonised spectrum framework for 5G will enable economies of scale, facilitating cross-border coordination and roaming for end users. Consistent spectrum release timelines and harmonisation measures are key enablers for the success of 5G.
Licenses offering exclusive use of nationally available bandwidth remain the main and preferred authorisation model for accessing 5G spectrum, bringing certainty for investments, predictable network performance and quality for end-user connectivity.
IMT networks are providing the platform to serve a growing number of vertical industries. Regulations should not add constraints to the introduction of such platforms (e.g. NB-IoT, C-V2X, IMT for trunking and PPDR, etc.). Regulators should also consider facilitating forward-looking strategies to support the convergence between TV broadcasting networks and IMT systems. The future use of UHF spectrum will be an important issue at WRC-23, with key discussions starting from WRC-19.
One of the core targets of 5G is to provide wireless connectivity to vertical industries: more so than improving performance from previous generations of mobile technologies. The success of 5G will therefore depend on positive collaboration between the telecoms industry and a broad range of potential industrial users of 5G networks, reaching beyond the telecoms sector.