– Ten telecoms predictions for 2018

3. 3.5 GHz will be the primary band for 5G

Telecoms consultancy Northstream believes the 3.5 GHz band occupies the 5G sweet-spot. The mmWave band, popular for pre-5G FWA deployments, presents challenges with mobility support and providing consistent user experience, while sub-1 GHz spectrum is occupied with previous generations of mobile technologies and is not suitable to deliver the high throughput needed for 5G enhanced mobile broadband. Therefore in 2018 the telecom industry will shift its attention and efforts towards the 3.5GHz band, especially in Europe, as this band brings a number of practical benefits.

Although the propagation challenge of mmWave band can to a large extent be mitigated by the use of beamforming technology and site densification, its ability to support mobility so far remains feasible only in theory. Sub-1 GHz spectrum can facilitate wide area coverage, but these low bands are crowded since they are already used for previous generations of mobile technologies. In addition, low bands have limited bandwidth and cannot benefit from massive MIMO.

Considerable amount of 3.5GHz spectrum is available and can be directly deployed onto existing grids while still taking advantage of massive MIMO technology. This in turn delivers a significant improvement in user experience that can be properly described as 5G. 3.5GHz is also an ‘almost’ globally harmonized band that’s ready for allocation. The exception is the USA, where it’s used as part of the CBRS band.

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