With the incentive auction slated to take place early next year, we’re hearing more and more about this 600MHz spectrum. The FCC actually believes it could help accelerate 5G rollout. Much like 700MHz did for 4G LTE a few years ago. We’ve been hearing a ton about 5G in recent months, and we know it’s coming, it’s just a question of when. FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler stated in a blog post today, “For example, the timing of the incentive auction makes the 600 MHz band a prime candidate for deployment of a wide-area 5G coverage layer.”
Higher frequency bands could also play a big part in 5G rollout. Late last year, the commission adopted a notice of inquiry in regards to expanding the use of higher frequency bands. Wheeler also stated, “will explore a range of regulatory strategies depending on the specifics of each proposed higher-frequency band, including licensed, unlicensed, and hybrid shared models”.
4G LTE has been around for a few years now, but the US still has some of the slowest LTE speeds in the world. So it’ll be interesting to see how 5G works here in the US. With these data caps, I’m willing to bet many people aren’t going to be in love with the idea of much faster data speeds. 5G networks are around 7.5Gbps, which is a whole lot faster than what we currently have. Heck that’s about 7x as fast as Google Fiber. SK Telecom in South Korea is already operating a network with speeds that can reach up to 7.5Gbps. Now that is a theoretical speed, so you may not actually see those speeds, but it’s still crazy that it’s available.
So the 600MHz spectrum auction or the incentive auction is pretty important right now. Not just for the smaller carriers who desperately need that low-band spectrum for better coverage and building-penetration. But to start the build out of their 5G networks. Which is what the FCC wants them to do. The FCC is slated to announce rules for the auction pretty soon, with the auction taking place in the first quarter of 2016. So we should find out the results of this auction before the end of the first quarter.