3.3 – 4.2 GHz Benchmarking: Spectrum policy does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme
Aug 25, 2021 by Toby Youell


Bands3.3 - 3.8 GHz, 3.7 - 4.2 GHz
Tags3.3 - 3.8 GHz, 3.7 - 4.2 GHz

A common cliche is that history repeats itself. Radio spectrum, of course, is no exception.

A decade ago the digitisation of terrestrial television created a digital dividend: more low-band spectrum available for mobile broadband, particularly for emerging 4G services. This prompted a wave of 800 MHz band auctions. Many countries, especially after a surprise agenda item in the WRC-15 study cycle, thought that terrestrial broadcasting could also accommodate the release of the 700 MHz band.

Some countries ‘lapped’ other countries and held their second digital dividend awards before other countries held their first award. For example, Germany awarded the 700 MHz band in 2015, while South Africa’s 800 MHz band auction is still pending.

Our new benchmark of 3.3 – 4.2 GHz band awards reveals a similar trend in the C-Band. The data shows that some countries, such as Hungary and Spain, have already held two awards, while others, such as India and Brazil, have not yet held any 5G awards in the band. Some energetic regulators, such as the UK’s Ofcom, have even made the band available three times, twice through auctions and additionally in an ongoing local access initiative.

But three awards are not necessarily better than one. Finland, for example, held one award in October 2018 for the 3410 – 3800 MHz band. Hungary and Spain assigned the same spectrum, but over two auctions. It seems that the second wave of C-Band auctions is not about advanced countries getting ahead, but about regulators settling unfinished business from their first awards. The US, for example, prepared its sale of the 3700 – 3980 MHz band to compensate for the perceived shortcomings of the CBRS at 3550 – 3700 MHz.

Apparently the wiser cliche is that history doesn’t repeat itself, it just rhymes.

More information is available in PolicyTracker’s new 3.3 – 4.2 GHz band benchmark, available as part of the Spectrum Research Service.