Mid-Band Spectrum Opportunities and Challenges (2019)

By Craig Schwechel, Marth Wilson, Lauren Buhl & Tomislav Marcinko, inCode Consulting, a division of Ericsson

To date the FCC has made ~633MHz of licensed spectrum (below 6GHz) available to mobile network operators, which they have deployed to achieve broad scale coverage. However, to deliver the coverage and capacity required for emerging enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), fixed wireless access (FWA), vehicle-to-everything (V2X), etc. use cases, much deeper pools of spectrum will be required, with mid-band playing a critical and broad role. Broadband Radio Service / Education Broadband Service (BRS/EBS), Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), and Cband spectrum bands have the potential to provide over 500MHz of additional capacity, on a much more economically viable deployment footprint than mmWave. This paper will explore the opportunities and challenges mid-band spectrum presents and will share perspective across three categories:

  • Use Case and Competitive Considerations – the depth of spectrum available in the mid-band increases the economic viability for use cases not traditionally aligned with 3GPP technology, including FWA and video distribution, presenting an opportunity and threat to cable’s traditional businesses.

  • Business Model Considerations – Innovative and flexible models for mid-band spectrum allocation makes operators build their business cases around usage and deployment scenarios, including neutral host and private networks, who bring their own value props. Spectrum acquisition cost is increasing for midband spectrum, especially if wide, continuous channels are made available. 5G use cases drive there venue opportunities and we are just beginning to see the innovation in what can be built on 5G networks.

  • Deployment Considerations – While some of the mid-band spectrum (BRS/EBS) can be deployed using a traditional macro approach, greatest performance will be achieved though densification. Line of sight, building penetration, and cell edge performance will drive mid-band site placement considerations.

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