The Race to 5G: Policy
Read about the latest developments in spectrum policy and 5G regulations
T-Mobile is Serious About 600 MHz
11 January 2018
In a letter to U.S. regulators, T-Mobile pledged to offer mobile 5G [pdf] at 600 MHz by 2020, and said its current 600 MHz LTE network is already up and running in 586 towns and cities. The company also plans to launch “more than a dozen” new smartphones this year that will support 600 MHz service. And the letter highlighted T-Mobile’s investments to expand its network to reach more people with LTE service. Its total coverage area now encompasses 322 million people (up from 315 million in 2017).
T-Mobile Asks FCC to Modify Antenna Rules
18 January 2018
T-Mobile is considering using millimeter waves in the E-band (70 GHz to 80 GHz) to provide backhaul for 5G service in cities. Operating in that band means installing a bunch of new antennas. With that in mind, the company asked U.S. regulators [PDF] to relax their antenna requirements. Specifically, the company says “antenna physics” prevent it from using the types of antennas (flat, small, discreet) that landlords and zoning boards prefer. T-Mobile has tested the FibeAir IP-20E by Ceragon Networks, a flat-panel antenna that can attach to streetlights or poles.
America Movil to Bid for 5G Spectrum
9 February 2018
Mexico’s largest wireless provider will be allowed to bid on new spectrum in an upcoming auction, the nation’s telecommunications regulator said. The auction will distribute 120 MHz of spectrum from the 2.5 GHz band, which carriers intend to use for 5G as well as expanded 4G LTE service and new Internet of Things networks. Competitors including AT&T had lobbied regulators to ban America Movil from the auction, since the company recently purchased spectrum in that same band. A government official told Reuters the agency would place caps on companies’ bids based on how much spectrum they already held.
Vodafone Bids in U.K. Spectrum Auction
20 March 2018
Vodafone is one of six companies that will soon begin bidding on available 5G spectrum in the U.K., in an auction held by the regulator Ofcom that kicked off today. The spectrum that’s up for grabs includes 150 megahertz in the 3.4 GHz band, and 40 megahertz in the 2.3 GHz band. There aren’t many devices that support service at 3.4 GHz today, but that could change if carriers start to use it for 5G. Ofcom has placed a cap on how much spectrum Vodafone can purchase, though, since the company already holds 29 percent of the U.K.’s mobile spectrum.
AT&T Pleased With FCC’s New Base Station Rules
22 March 2018
AT&T issued a statement thanking the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for excusing small cells (tiny base stations that serve smaller areas than cell towers) from undergoing mandatory federal environmental and impact reviews. AT&T and other companies had lobbied the regulator to relax its requirements, arguing that small cells shouldn’t be treated the same way as traditional cell towers. Opponents expressed concerns about putting up more pieces of equipment in communities, including the potential long-term health effects of living near these sites. Small cells will still be subject to local reviews by cities and towns.
America Movil Shuns New National Mobile Network
22 March 2018
Mexico recently rolled out an ambitious national 4G network—which would presumably also support 5G someday—to save individual carriers the hassle of building their own, and to expand service to rural areas. However, America Movil’s CEO said on a recent earnings call that the company doesn’t intend to use it, preferring to stick to its own network. Just last month, a judge ruled that America Movil had to permit its competitors—including Telefonica and AT&T—to share its infrastructure. Ahead of 5G, these moves aim to increase competition within Mexico’s telecom sector, where America Movil currently serves two-thirds of mobile phone subscribers.
Verizon Eyes 3.5 GHz Band
23 March 2018
Verizon has asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for permission to conducts wireless tests in Florida in the 3.5 GHz band, known as Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). This band has been reserved by the U.S. government for a spectrum sharing experiment, which will allow federal, unlicensed, and licensed users to operate in that same band at the same time. Verizon’s application suggests the company is interested in making use of that spectrum for both indoor and outdoor applications. It won’t be alone, as T-Mobile recently asked to extend a license to test at 3.5 GHz in Las Vegas.
China Mobile Scores FDD License
3 April 2018
China Mobile announced today that it has received a license from Chinese regulators to use frequency division duplex (FDD) for its 4G LTE network. That signifies a shift in strategy for the carrier ahead of 5G, as China Mobile has long preferred to use time division duplex (TDD), in which signals are transmitted in specific time slots rather than spread out over different frequencies. In a press release [pdf], the company said it would use the new scheme to expand mobile Internet of Things networks and expand high-speed service to rural areas.
Verizon Wins Spectrum Tussle
3 April 2018
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has decided not to delay the transfer of valuable millimeter wave licenses to Verizon from Straight Path Communications, a startup that Verizon acquired in 2017. A request for the delay was filed with the agency by regional carriers who said giving Verizon so much premium spectrum would effectively shut them out of 5G markets. Last year, Verizon and AT&T engaged in a dramatic bidding war for Straight Path, which held licenses at 39 GHz and 28 GHz. Recently, Straight Path and Verizon paid the FCC $614 million to settle an investigation into whether the companies had failed to meet requirements to put that spectrum to use in a timely manner.
Vodafone Wins Big in Spectrum Auction
5 April 2018
Vodafone and its competitors spent big on spectrum in a recent U.K. auction that focused on frequencies favored for 5G. Vodafone walked away with 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.4 GHz band, for which it paid a cool £378 million. That was the biggest purchase of the day. Ofcom, the British regulator, has said that 3.4 GHz will likely be used by telecos for 5G service.
ZTE Scolded by U.S. and U.K. Authorities
16 April 2018
Any hopes that ZTE had of using chips made by Qualcomm or Intel in future 5G phones or base stations have been squashed. An order issued today by the U.S. Department of Commerce effectively bans ZTE from exporting any products or components from U.S. manufacturers. The punishment comes as the commerce department says ZTE lied repeatedly in negotiations with the U.S. government in 2016 and 2017. At least one product that ZTE previewed at Mobile World Congress—a 5G baseband unit—relied on hardware produced by Intel. News also broke that the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre has warned telecommunications companies that ZTE’s equipment carries a “national security risk.”
Samsung Scores FCC Approval of 5G Gear
Samsung received the final stamp of approval it needed to declare its line of 5G network and base station equipment fully certified by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The line includes indoor and outdoor home routers as well as base station equipment. Together, the gear supports home Internet service at millimeter wave frequencies. Samsung beat out its competitors to become the first U.S. vendor to receive approval for a batch of equipment that can provide end-to-end 5G fixed wireless service. And that approval is good news for Verizon, which has said it will work with Samsung on Verizon’s upcoming commercial 5G rollouts.
Apple Eyes Terahertz Frequencies
A letter from Apple [PDF] to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission shows the company is interested in exploring terahertz frequencies (95 GHz to 3,000 GHz) for future wireless service. Apple, which has revealed almost nothing about its 5G plans, encouraged the agency to keep those bands free of clutter such as commercial licenses. These frequencies are far above the millimeter waves being considered for 5G service, which could mean that Apple is thinking ahead to post-5G cellular generations. The company also asked the agency to expand the width of unlicensed bands within that range, which currently measure 1 gigahertz to 7.2 gigahertz wide, and to group more of those bands together.
Ericsson Applauds Nordic Pledge for 5G
The prime ministers of five Nordic countries promised to work together to bring 5G service to the region. The leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden pledged [PDF] to create “a common Nordic 5G space.” To do this, the countries will roll out new testbeds, coordinate which frequencies to use for 5G, and “remove obstacles” (which could mean regulations) that prevent carriers from deploying extra base stations and antennas. The group expressed special interest in using 5G to provide augmented reality training to industrial workers, and to monitor aquaculture. Ericsson, which is based in Stockholm, applauded the effort.
Korea Telecom and SK Telecom To Launch 5G Jointly
The three biggest South Korean telecoms—Korea Telecom, SK Telecom, and LG Uplus—agreed to launch their 5G networks at the same time, after meeting with South Korea’s Information and Communications Technology Minister. The hope is that by agreeing to launch at the same time, the companies will avoid a bitter fight to be the first to market. The South Korean government made the announcement, but according to news service Yonhap, ICT Minister Yoo Young-min believes that the country will be the first in the world to launch widespread commercial service. The current goal is March of 2019.
America Movil Invests in 5G for Dominican Republic
The Latin American operator America Movil has pledged 1 billion USD to develop 5G and IoT networks in the Dominican Republic. America Movil’s CEO, Daniel Hajj, made the announcement after a meeting with Dominican Republic president Danilo Medina. The company will spread the investment over the next three years. America Movil provides coverage in the country through its subsidiary company, Claro Dominicana, and says the investment is worth it due to the high percentage (over 70%) of mobile clients that rely on smartphones.
Huawei CFO Arrest Adds to Concerns Over Security
The arrest of Huawei’s CFO in Canada on behalf of the U.S. is the latest in a long-simmering quarrel between China and several other countries, including the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia. Huawei has already been banned from several countries, prohibiting their use in building 5G networks. Meng Wanzhou’s arrest is directly tied to accusations that Huawei sold telecom equipment to Iran in defiance of a sanction enacted by the U.S., but the countries in the “Five Eyes” group, that share intelligence with one another, have been concerned about state-sponsored spying through Huawei’s equipment for months now.
Sprint and T-Mobile Merger Approved
After several starts and stops, Sprint and T-Mobile have received approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., as well as the U.S. Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice, for the companies’ proposed merger. The deal will see Softbank selling their majority stake in Sprint to Deutsche Telekom, the parent company of T-Mobile. Sprint announced the U.S. government’s approval of the “New T-Mobile,” which also has a website claiming that the merger will improve the U.S.’s competition in the 5G race. The merger is expected to happen in early 2019.
Intel Accuses Qualcomm of Stifling Competition
Intel isn’t pulling many punches in their criticisms of Qualcomm over “another” attempt to stifle competition. The criticism comes shortly before the U.S. Federal Trade Commission will pursue a case against Qualcomm for violating U.S. antitrust law, by refusing to license its standards-essential patents to other modem chip manufacturers. Intel argues that competition is necessary for delivering 5G, and Qualcomm’s refusal to license its 5G wireless patents will stifle that competition. Qualcomm has been fined nearly 4 billion dollars by China, Korea, the European Commission, and Taiwan for similar practices already.