Market research firm Allnet Insights recently published a set of charts visualizing millimeter-wave spectrum control in the United States, providing the general public with another look at the current state of ownership of this spectrum range that's widely expected to be of crucial importance for the deployment of the fifth generation of mobile networks, commonly referred to as 5G.
The pie charts that can be seen below do come with a number of disclaimers; most notably, some of them assume that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will approve Verizon's acquisition of Straight Path and AT&T's purchase of FiberTower. In case either of the two deals is stopped by the federal agency, the millimeter-wave spectrum ownership structure in the country will be noticeably different to the one visualized in some charts shown below. AT&T's entire holdings are especially doubtful since FiberTower may be eligible to lose a portion of its spectrum portfolio for not meeting the FCC's buildout requirements before filing for bankruptcy in 2012, meaning that the third largest mobile service provider in the country was never legally able to acquire those assets in the first place. A number of images in the gallery below account for that possibility, indicating that the Dallas, Texas-based wireless carrier may lose as much as 13 percent of all millimeter-wave spectrum in the U.S. if the FCC's ruling on the matter isn't in its favor.
Regardless of that state of affairs, all licensed bands in the 24GHz range will still be split between AT&T and the FCC, the former of whom will hold up to 36 percent of them. The ownership structure of the 39GHz and LMDS bands is somewhat more diverse, with both being distributed between the FCC, Verizon, AT&T, and a number of smaller players, albeit AT&T's portion of the 39GHz band still largely depends on whether FiberTower's licenses end up being terminated, whereas the company currently has no LMDS holdings. The millimeter-wave spectrum itself is said to be inseparable from the upcoming 5G evolution due to the fact that signals traveling through it can transmit massive volumes of data, consequently allowing for higher Internet speeds. However, its signals can't travel far compared to those going through the more traditionally used spectrum, which is why most carriers are currently planning on building more small cell sites and prepare for the deployment of 5G technologies.