26 GHz: Will one gigahertz be enough for 5G?
Jul 30, 2018 by Manuel R. Marti


Earlier this month, the Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) officially agreed on the technical conditions to harmonise the 26 GHz band (24.25–27.5 GHz) in Europe for 5G.

And yet a growing number of stakeholders have been raising concerns about the difficulties of manufacturing chips that can operate on 26.5 GHz frequencies. In an open letter published by mobile industry association the GSMA, mobile operators and vendors have urged European legislators to adopt a different approach towards 26 GHz.

They claim the proposed conditions would prevent mobile operators from building the best possible 5G networks and would de-incentivise the industry. Qualcomm, for example, recently launched the world’s first mmWave antenna: it is unable to operate in the 26 GHz band’s lowest frequencies. 

Last year, a consultation paper published by UK regulator Ofcom said that the EU’s priority mmWave band would become available for 5G on a progressive basis, with an initial release of the upper 1 GHz of the band (26.5 – 27.5 GHz).

But will 1 GHz of spectrum be enough for mobile operators? Bearing mmWave propagation characteristics in mind, what advantage does it offer compared to the C-band if each operator will only have roughly 250 MHz of spectrum?

Could Europe be wrong about the 26 GHz band? Other countries–the US, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Canada–are all looking to 28 GHz for 5G.

Most probably, both 26 GHz and 28 GHz will become globally harmonised 5G bands. But if this happens, will either the US or Europe have missed out?•