To the uneducated, licensed spectrum is a helpful commodity. For carriers reminiscent of AT&T, Dish, T-Cellular, and Verizon to deploy subsequent era 5G entry and providers broadly, these service suppliers want a variety of spectrum belongings. The spectrum hole was abundantly clear because the latest C-Band public sale concluded with an astounding $81 billion-plus payday for the Federal Communications Fee (FCC). I need to present my insights into why the C-Band public sale was a record-breaker and the potential challenges it might pose for operators and subscribers alike. 

Spectrum 101 

Licensed spectrum is finest analyzed in three classes – low, mid, and excessive. Low-band is outlined within the sub 1 GHz spectrum vary and might transmit over lengthy distances with higher penetration however at decrease throughput because of smaller bandwidth availability. Mid-band is outlined within the spectrum vary of 1-5 GHz and might ship a very good stability of transmission distance, excessive throughput, and low latency. Excessive-band or millimeter wave (mmWave) is outlined within the spectrum vary of 24-52 GHz and might ship extraordinarily excessive throughput and ultra-low latency however over a lot shorter distances with line-of-sight challenges. What made the C-Band public sale compelling have been its coveted mid-band spectrum belongings and the sheer amount of them accessible for buy. Nevertheless, there are challenges with the deployment of those spectrum belongings. Allow us to dive into these particulars additional.

C-Band challenges 

From my perspective, C-Band poses three challenges. First, it’s within the higher vary of three.7-3.98 GHz and, in consequence, would require small cell densification to comprehend its full potential given line of sight and constructing penetration challenges. Densification will enhance capital expenditures for AT&T and Verizon that each bid aggressively within the public sale to fill mid-band gaps. Second, operators have needed to activate incremental credit score amenities to finance spectrum purchases. Living proof, AT&T has made it recognized by means of a latest SEC Kind 8-Okay submitting that it sought a $14.7B mortgage with Financial institution of America. These multi-billion-dollar spectrum expenditures add to an already costly funding in 5G infrastructure that AT&T and Verizon have explicitly said is north of $20B every. The actual hazard is that deployment might gradual because of having to handle capital and operational bills extra rigorously. Lastly, there are important hurdles in native zoning restrictions for small cell deployment and convincing much less tech-savvy native authorities leaders {that a} proliferation of 5G small cells doesn’t pose any well being dangers. I do know first-hand {that a} tier-one operator’s 5G deployment efforts in my hometown of Austin, Texas, have been thwarted because of the latter.    

Wrapping up 

Carriers on this nation are spending billions of {dollars} in {hardware} and software program mobile networking infrastructure to deploy a spread of spectrum—all within the hopes of being first to monetize 5G use instances. The escalating price of spectrum compounds these bills and have to be amortized someplace – doubtless within the type of larger subscriber pricing. In my view, the FCC ought to stability filling the federal government coffers with making certain broad entry to licensed spectrum. The adverse impact of spiraling spectrum auctions might gradual provider 5G rollouts, enhance subscriber price, and weaken america’ capability to leverage the brand new customary as a disruptive financial lever. 

Will Townsend is a Senior Analyst that manages Networking Infrastructure and Provider Providers observe at Moor Insights & Technique. Mr. Townsend advises a number of the largest networking infrastructure suppliers and carriers on the earth. He has been featured on NPR, CNBC, within the Wall Avenue Journal, offering insights into enterprise networking and 5G. Mr. Townsend can be thought-about one of many high networking analysts on the earth.