Feature Article

October 20, 2014

FCC Launches Investigation to Determine Feasibility of 5G Mobile Services

Mobile service providers are constantly on the lookout for delivering more mobile data to a growing customer base. This is the drive that led to the creation and the popularization of 3G and 4G LTE networks, which use smaller signal wavelengths with higher frequencies to deliver more data. Today's carriers are pushing to use wireless signals with frequencies above 24GHz, which have wavelengths only around a millimeter long. These wavelengths fit into a 5G-class LTE network, which as of yet is not standardized by the FCC. However as demand for the standardized use of these wavelengths increase, the FCC is now taking action in developing a 5G licensing framework.

On Friday, the FCC regulator voted to open a notice of inquiry into the millimeter-wave spectrum to determine which wavelengths are appropriate for cellular carriers to use. Some of their rulings are likely to be influenced by recent developments from carriers like Samsung, who was able to successfully reach download speeds of around 7.5Gbps during a test of a 28 GHz 5G network. Intel, Nokia, AT&T, Huawei, Qualcomm and others have reached similar but slower results on their own, while Ericsson and Samsung have both developed tools that allow the signals to penetrate walls better – ranging in the frequency spectrum between 5.8 GHz and 72 GHz.

While the FCC expects to develop the 5G standard and create a framework around it, it has explicitly made clear that the agency has no interest in defining the 5G standards or its potential characteristics. If possible, the FCC hopes that it will instead create rules for better addressing these wavelengths in the future as they are doled out according to use.

Expectedly, most wireless carriers are eagerly awaiting the FCC's decisions so that they can start preparing to deliver service as soon as possible. Even though most carriers will rely on 3G and 4G equipment to deliver most coverage, delivering 5G support to even a small population center would quickly drive the popularity and profitability of other such networks.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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