FCC will auction 5G-ready 3.7-4.2GHz and mmWave spectrum — if Congress acts by May 13


Speaking at the Mobile World Congress today in Barcelona, Spain, U.S. FCC chairman Ajit Pai today announced that the commission is prepared to quickly make 5G-ready mid-frequency and high-frequency wireless spectrum available through auctions. The only hitch: Congressional action by May 13 will be necessary to avoid delaying the 5G rollout process.

Telecom industry leaders have identified certain chunks of radio spectrum as critically important for 5G, and engineered upcoming 5G chipsets and antennas around the frequencies. So-called mid-frequency bands include both 3.5GHz and 3.7-4.2GHz ranges, while high-frequency or millimeter wave (mmWave) bands include 24GHz and 28GHz ranges.

Pai addressed each of the bands at MWC, beginning by noting that the FCC has already allocated 150Mhz of spectrum within the 3.5GHz band, thereby allowing 5G devices and other applications to use it. He also mentioned that Sprint has committed to offering 5G in 2019 on lower 2.5GHz spectrum it already owns.

“We’re also looking very closely at the 3.7 to 4.2GHz band,” said Pai, “a large chunk of spectrum that holds much potential for wireless service… In the coming months, I intend to propose the next steps needed to make 3.7 to 4.2Ghz spectrum available for commercial terrestrial use.”

“Obviously a lot of the 5G action has been focused on high-band spectrum,” said Pai. He noted that the FCC has already allocated spectrum in the 24-47GHz mmWave range for terrestrial use, setting the stage for 5G experimentation. To that end, the FCC three days ago gave Samsung the world’s first approval for 28GHz base stations, which will be used in Verizon’s 2018 rollout of 5G in the United States.

Pai suggested that the FCC is ready to auction 24GHz and 28GHz spectrum in the near future, but requires Congressional cooperation by May 13 to make those allocations happen.

This story is developing – we’re updating it now…

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