Author: Joe Barrett, President, Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSACom)
5G mmWave spectrum offers large amounts of bandwidth to support far greater capacity, faster downloads and more subscribers. It is ideally suitable for high data throughput applications such as video communications, video animations and data hungry applications such as virtual and augmented reality. But what is the current state of mmWave spectrum licensing and network deployment around the world, and in Asia specifically?
mmWave auctions gathering pace globally
In June 2020, GSA reported that 97 operators in 17 countries/territories now hold public licences enabling operation of 5G networks using mmWave spectrum. Of these, 22 operators are known to be already deploying 5G networks using mmWave spectrum while 13 countries/territories have announced formal (date-specified) plans for assigning frequencies above 24 GHz between now and end-2021. The 24.25–29.5 GHz 5G mmWave spectrum range is the most-licensed/deployed to date, with 123 operators in 42 countries / territories investing in 5G (in the form of trials, licences, deployments or operational networks) across this spectrum range.
In Asia specifically, while some auctions have been awarded, such as 26 GHz/28 GHz auction in Singapore or the 26 GHz (24.3–27.0 GHz) auction in Thailand, some are still yet to happen.
GSA tracks the current status of Spectrum Auctions around the world. Our quarterly Spectrum Auction Calendar, last updated in June 2020, monitors the changing industry developments on spectrum release activities. The latest Spectrum Auction Calendar can be downloaded from https://gsacom.com/paper/spectrum-auction-calendar-june-2020-quarterly-update/.
Device ecosystem increasing support for mmWave bands
This global momentum behind high band mmWave spectrum for 5G networks is also being replicated in the device ecosystem. With over 317 5G devices announced as of the end of June 2020 (see latest report), of which at least 135 are commercially available, GSA is tracking devices’ spectrum band support and has identified spectrum support information for just over 82% of all announced devices. 76.3% of all announced 5G devices are identified as supporting sub-6 GHz spectrum bands while 26.5% are understood to support mmWave spectrum. Just 20.5% of all announced devices are known to support both mmWave and sub-6 GHz spectrum bands. Currently, only 31 of the commercially available devices (23.0% of them) are understood to support services operating in mmWave spectrum, but 88.9% of the commercially available devices are known to support sub-6 GHz spectrum.
Working together to deliver new mmWave opportunities
High band spectrum is suited to local area hot-spot coverage and supports 5G applications in places where high data throughput is required. High-band spectrum is also ideally suited to deployment in-building due to the band’s propagation characteristics. Lower power high-band spectrum can be efficiently deployed in-building to supplement Wi-Fi and provide seamless 5G coverage.
However, for the industry to realise these benefits, it is critical that regulators, operators and vendors work together. GSA has a large and active Spectrum Group which is active in all regions and is aligned along ITU lines. The Spectrum Group is authoring reports on different spectrum areas from low- mid- and high-band frequencies.
Despite the disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, GSA is continuing to see 5G spectrum auctions proceeding across all bands, with over 40 countries are still planning spectrum auctions before the end of 2020.
To know more about mmWave and the status of auctions, network roll-outs and supporting devices globally, please see our recent report mmWave Bands – Global Licensing and Usage for 5G. https://gsacom.com/paper/mmwave-bands-global-licensing-and-usage-for-5g/.