Numerous businesses and government organizations have been deliberating on the development of 5G networks for some time now. Not much has been decided for the new 5G networks, but the FCC is beginning to close in on an exact 5G standard.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced in a document published on the FCC website that the agenct is considering the use of a wide 200 MHz spectrum on the 3.5 GHz band for 5G networks. The 3.5 GHz band is key to the FCC’s plans to improve mobile networks inside of the United States, because it is seldom used and distant from other heavily used bands. This will help avoid interference from other radio transmissions.
"Our 5G proposal is the final piece in the spectrum trifecta of low-band, mid-band, and high-band airwaves that will open up unprecedented amounts of spectrum, speed the rollout of next generation wireless networks, and re-define network connectivity for years to come. I’m confident these actions will lead to a cornucopia of unanticipated innovative uses, and generate tens of billions of dollars in economic activity," said Wheeler.
Due to the wide availability of the 3.5 GHz band, it is feasible for the FCC to allot a wide spectrum range of 200 MHz to 5G networks, whereas current mobile networks are limited to a 5-20 MHz range. This will aid in the FCC’s goal of developing extraordinarily high-speed mobile networks, as the wider spectrum allows companies to transmit larger amounts of data to individual devices.
“The next generation of wireless must be like mobile fiber – and that means speeds 10 to 100 times faster than today,” said Wheeler.
Exactly how fast 5G will be is still undecided, but we do have a rough range for what to expect. Current 4G LTE data rates peak at 100 Mbps, so going by Wheeler’s statement, we can expect 5G to have peak data rates of at least 1,000 Mbps, and it could reach as high as 10,000 Mbps. Speeds of 10,000 Mbps are unlikely, but gigabit cellular networks are quite plausible. We have reason to believe that some companies are already developing cellular antennas capable of gigabit data rates in anticipation of 5G.
"The ability to use this high-frequency spectrum opens much bigger chunks of spectrum. Current blocks of licensed low-band spectrum are usually 5-10 MHz in width. With 5G, however, we are looking at blocks of at least 200 MHz in width. This will allow networks to carry much more traffic per user – gigabits of throughput instead of megabits," said Wheeler.
You might question if there is any need for data rates anywhere near one gigabit, but 5G is about more than just fast Internet. It is also about supporting a wide array of new devices and connecting people and objects to the network that currently aren’t.
Come July 14, the FCC plans to vote to open vast amounts of spectrum specifically for the use of 5G. It also plans to open up an enormous 28 GHz of spectrum for the free and independent development of new networking technologies. If passed, we will likely see the FCC and other parties take action to define 5G around this new spectrum in the coming months.