Does European backing for 26 GHz change the 5G equation?
Here at Policytracker we were mildly annoyed when Europe’s regulators in the RSPG decided to identify 26 GHz as a 5G “pioneer band” along with 3.5 GHz and 700 MHz. This was not a principled policy disagreement, rather that having published the 4G and 5G spectrum guide a fortnight earlier, we had to update it!
Why did we consider this necessary? Looking at the recent US actions on 5G spectrum the report argued that support for 28 GHz in the world’s biggest economy was probably going to win the day, even though the band was not among those being studied at ITU level following WRC-15.
The ITU did agree to study 26 GHz (24.25 GHz – 27.5 GHz) for potential 5G identification, but the rejection of US-backed 28 GHz seemed of little consequence compared to the strength of the FCC’s actions a few months later. The US regulator allowed 5G use in 28 GHz, 37 GHz and 39 GHz immediately, not possibly by 2019 subject to studies and WRC agreement, as agreed by the ITU.
So has the RSPG’s decision swung the pendulum back in favour of 26 GHz? It’s an important development and worth recording but underlying position seems unchanged.
The RSPG’s initiative is a commitment to focus its efforts on studying 26 GHz in the run up to WRC-19. In the long term this will be important in developing support for the band but it is not “real world access right now” that the US has given 28 GHz.
Most probably, by 2019 28 GHz will be a working 5G band used by multiple devices in the US and elsewhere and it would be odd if that were not recognised by the ITU. So it’s likely that both 26 GHz and 28 GHz will become ITU-identified 5G bands.
If this happens, will either the US or the EU have lost out? Both regions use different bands in 4G and this could continue with 5G. However, the US has taken a lead with 5G as it did with 4G, and we have yet to know what effect that will have on 28 GHz in the European market.