Is Asia keener than Europe on millimetre wave bands?
Feb 07, 2020 by Richard Handford


LocationItaly, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand
Tags26 GHz, 28 GHz, Hong kong, Italy, Japan, millimeter waves, South Korea, Taiwan

The statistics would suggest so. A new report from the European Commission’s 5G Observatory says that Italy is the only country in the 27-member European Union that has assigned spectrum in the 26 GHz band.

Compare that with Asia, where South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan have awarded 26 or 28 GHz. Malaysia and Thailand are also due to do so before the end of Q1 2020.

The scores will level up somewhat over the next 12 months as ten EU countries, including Denmark, Spain and France, are planning to assign the 26 GHz band before the end of 2020. However, right now, the imbalance is marked.

So what is going on? Partly it can be explained by the historic drive of Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan and Taiwan to be at the forefront of mobile technology for the sake of their manufacturers.

But look more closely and Asia’s passion for mmWave bands does not burn quite so brightly. Only two countries (South Korea and Taiwan) staged auctions. And in Taiwan, bids for 28 GHz barely nudged above the reserve price. The other countries were giving the frequencies away. Even when this was the case, one mobile network operator (MNO), Three Hong Kong, still declined to take any mmWave spectrum.

The truth is that Asian MNOs are as lukewarm about 26 and 28 GHz as their European peers.

“What we have seen to date is some Asian regulators award mmWave spectrum ahead of their European counterparts,” says Lee Sanders, a partner at Aetha Consulting. “However, the spectrum has typically sold for modest amounts of money. We are yet to see how important mmWave will be to the delivery of 5G.”

Sanders also says Asia is more heterogeneous in terms of development than Europe. “While the likes of South Korea and Hong Kong may be ahead of Europe, many Asian countries will inevitably be behind,” he says.

Europe is homogeneous in other ways too. EU regulation means member states have less room to be creative than their Asian counterparts in distributing unwanted frequencies. A spectrum handout would probably be the best way to prompt some interest in millimetre waves.•