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The Future of IMT Technologies

3300-4200 MHz Emerges Globally as a Key Spectrum Range

3300-4200 MHz Emerges Globally as a Key Spectrum Range

The global terrestrial mobile broadband data traffic is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 45 percent in the coming years, which represents a tenfold increase between 2016 and 2022. This increase is driven largely by the adoption of mobile video streaming and growing Internet of Things (IoT). The 29 billion connected devices by 2022 are expected to include 18 billion IoT or machine-to-machine (M2M) devices. Subsequently, the future mobile networks will need to support new challenging and new use cases, which will demand more spectrum in ever-higher frequency ranges.

As the third-generation partnership project (3GPP) ecosystem continues to expand, the 3300–4200 MHz spectrum range is emerging as the largest contiguous frequency range potentially available for mobile broadband below 6 GHz. Due to its favorable properties, such as radio wave propagation and available bandwidth, Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) is of the view that the bands in the ranges 3300–4200 MHz and 4400–4990 MHz will be the primary spectrum bands between 1 GHz and 6 GHz for the introduction of 5G and for international mobile telecommunication (IMT) technologies, delivering increased capacity and enhanced user experience.

The 3300–4200 MHz frequency range offers an optimal balance between coverage and capacity, which will support a broad range of 5G applications, including augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), ultra high definition (UHD) video, smart home, smart manufacturing, healthcare, and drones. The 3300–4200 MHz band will also provide both mobile connectivity on-the-go and fixed wireless access (FWA) for domestic and business applications.

Availability of 3300–4200 MHz Range

Spectrum availability for IMT technologies in the 3300–4200 MHz frequency range is increasing: 3400–3600 MHz is now almost globally available, and a large number of countries in different regions are taking action in order to reach 200–400 MHz of contiguous bandwidth in the 3300–4200 MHz frequency range for 5G. This will be the largest contiguous bandwidth for IMT below 6 GHz. 3400–3800 MHz is the primary 5G band in Europe, and is being investigated by regulators from the Middle-East and North Africa, who have recently developed an Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG) survey for this frequency range. Operators and regulators in Africa, Asia (including China and India), and Latin America are supporting the harmonization of the 3300–3400 MHz band, identified for IMT at WRC-15, and sharing opportunities in the 3400–3600/3700 MHz range.

In the US, in addition to the already available 3550–3700 MHz range (the CBRS band), the Mobile Now Act proposes further studies for a number of bands including 3100–3550 MHz and 3700–4200 MHz. Furthermore, the 3400–3700 MHz band is considered an important candidate in the Republic of Korea for 5G deployments. Parts of 3300–4200 MHz range are being considered for early trials in a number of countries/regions in the world. Trials in the 3400–3800 MHz band are being prepared for 2018 in Europe; there are ongoing trials in China (3400–3600 MHz) and Japan (3600–4200 MHz); and trials are also planned in Australia (3400–3600 MHz).

Way Forward

The 3GPP is working on the 5G channel arrangements for 3300–4200 MHz – an important first step toward the creation of a 5G ecosystem across the whole range. It is clear that not all of the 3300–4200 MHz range will be available in any country in the foreseeable future, and that the needs of current incumbent services such as fixed satellite service (FSS), fixed service (FS), and radiolocation should be given careful consideration. Regulators will decide which portions of spectrum will be made available at national level, based on incumbent users as well as national priorities and strategies. It is also expected that a given regulator may make different portions of the 3300–4200 MHz range available at different times, incrementally building large contiguous blocks. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association supports the availability of the largest possible contiguous frequency range for IMT within the 3300–4200 MHz range at national level. As a consequence, many countries will need to plan and carry out actions in order to address the current fragmentation of existing assignments.

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