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Timely access to 3.6 GHz and 26 GHz spectrum is key to 5G’s success in Europe

The use of new mid-band and mmWave spectrum will fuel the growth of mobile broadband and beyond. In Europe, the industry’s priority is to make 3.4-3.8 GHz and 26 GHz spectrum available for 2019 commercial 5G NR launches — in line with the timeline for global launches in other leading countries and regions.

Just a couple weeks ago, I was at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and I was extremely encouraged to see the tremendous 5G momentum with the entire ecosystem working toward global commercial 5G NR launches starting in 2019. MWC was a great opportunity for Qualcomm to host key European governments and regulators and to reiterate our strong commitment to the European Digital Single Market and its 5G roadmap, as we lead the world to 5G.

At MWC, we were able to show the very rapid progress we’ve made since the completion of the 5G NR initial standard in December 2017; we demonstrated 5G NR standards-compliant interoperability testing with our infrastructure vendor partners, including Ericsson and Nokia, for in 3.6 GHz as well as in mmWave — two key 5G bands both for Europe and globally. Just before MWC, we also announced the first trials of standards-compliant mobile 5G NR networks later this year with more than 20 operators globally using the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem and first standards-compliant mobile 5G NR devices in first half of 2019 with more than 19 manufacturers.

So, with 5G NR networks and devices on target for commercial launches in 2019, we also need to ensure timely access to the 3.6 GHz and 26 GHz in Europe. Having access to those bands will not only be essential for the rapid growth of mobile broadband services that consumers want, bringing new immersive XR experiences of our future, but also fuel the expansion of 5G to new industries such as automotive and new industrial IoT opportunities.

5G is designed to support all spectrum bands; lower frequency bands under 1 GHz, such as 700 MHz in Europe, will provide the widest coverage, but we also need access to higher frequency bands (e.g., 3-5 GHz and millimeter wave — mmWave) as they will deliver the wider bandwidths and lower latencies needed for enhanced mobile broadband services to provide a differentiated user experience as 5G services launch.

5G is also being designed to support all spectrum types — licensed, unlicensed, and shared. In addition to supporting an evolutionary path with, for example LAA type of functionality, it is also enabling a revolutionary path to spectrum sharing that will bring even more spectrum flexibility for mobile operators and new spectrum opportunity to industrial IoT players.

European regulators are focusing and prioritizing the mid-band spectrum in 3.4 to 3.8 GHz for 5G. This higher mid-band would deliver enough bandwidths for each major 5G mobile operator to have up to 100 MHz of contiguous spectrum, adding significant capacity and multi-gigabit user data rates for enhanced mobile broadband services. And thanks to 5G NR massive MIMO in this higher mid-band, mobile operators can reuse existing sites used by traditional LTE spectrum bands in the 2 GHz range.

But to deliver even better mobile broadband experiences in dense urban areas and a clear differentiation to today’s Gigabit LTE, it is essential to mobilize 26 GHz mmWave technologies for the smartphones, with each operator accessing 400 MHz and up to 800 MHz, to enable extreme throughput, lower latency and significantly more network capacity. On the mmWave front, the European regulators are prioritizing and focusing on the 26 GHz band that spans the 24.25 to 27.5 GHz frequency range.

At MWC, we showcased the real-world performance of 5G NR networks and devices using Frankfurt (sub-6 GHz — 3.5 GHz) and San Francisco (mmWave — 28 GHz). The simulation results showed significant network capacity and user experience gains over Gigabit LTE. Note that 26 GHz in Europe is expected to deliver similar performance as 28 GHz in the U.S. Below is a quick summary of the simulation results.

Figure 1: 5G NR will deliver immense user experience gains over 4G

The next steps for EU regulators is to start auctioning spectrum that will enable early 5G NR deployments as well as to evaluate new bands that will fuel 5G growth in the future.

At Qualcomm, we are actively working with the European Commission, European governments, as well as the ecosystem in Europe to ensure timely rollout of 5G, and we are encouraged to see good momentum so far. Just last week, the ECC has reached a key 5G spectrum milestone by approving for public consultation a set of draft spectrum regulations, which will shape the harmonization of the frequency bands 3.4-3.8 GHz and 26 GHz across Europe. The ECC has committed to finally adopting those 5G spectrum regulation later this year in July.

At member states level, we’re seeing some very positive progress on the release of 3.6 GHz and we’re working with European regulators on an accelerated release of 26 GHz. In the UK, regulator Ofcom will start the auction of 3.4-3.6 GHz spectrum on March 20th with all four mobile operators. The Italian regulator AGCOM released a few weeks ago its auction rules for 3.6-3.8 GHz and 26.5-27.5 GHz, with the auction to take place this summer. French regulator ARCEP announced the allocation of 300 MHz in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band in 2018. The German regulator BNETZA closed a consultation on 3.4-3.8 GHz and 26 GHz bands just a few weeks ago. Spain has also announced it will be auctioning 3.6–3.8 GHz in 2018, and Sweden and Finland are expected to award spectrum in the 3.6 GHz and 26 GHz bands in the 2018/2019 timeframe.

Figure 2: Spectrum status for 5G in Europe.

We are excitedly anticipating the first global 5G NR network and device launches — including millimeter wave operations in a smartphone form factor — in 2019 in Europe.

 

Qualcomm Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc and/or its subsidiaries.

 

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