ninety-seven operators in 17 countries/territories hold public licences (many of them regional) enabling operation of 5G networks using mmWave spectrum.
twenty-two operators are known to be already deploying 5G networks using mmWave spectrum.
thirteen countries/territories have announced formal (datespecified) plans for assigning frequencies above 24 GHz between now and end-2021.
eighty-four announced 5G devices explicitly support one or more of the 5G spectrum bands above 24 GHz (though note that details of spectrum support are patchy for pre-commercial devices), up from 59 at the end of November 2019. Twenty-seven of those devices are understood to be commercially available.
The mmWave spectrum bands are being explicitly opened up to enable provision of 5G services. The 24.25–29.5 GHz range covering the overlapping bands n257 (26.5–29.5 GHz), n258 (24.25–27.5 GHz) and n261 (27.5–28.35 GHz) has been the most-licensed/deployed 5G mmWave spectrum range to date.
One hundred and twenty-three operators in 42 countries/ territories are investing in 5G (in the form of trials, licences, deployments or operational networks) across the 24.25-29.5 GHz spectrum range.
Seventy-nine operators are known to have been licensed to deploy 5G in this range.
Twenty-one operators are understood to be actively deploying 5G networks using this spectrum.
Band n260, covering 37–40 GHz, is also used, with 33 companies in six countries/territories investing in networks using this spectrum. Of those, 32 hold licences (with the majority of those 32 based in the USA and its territories). Three operators in the USA have launched 5G using band n260.
*Note that due to the typically technology-neutral status of licences in the USA, multiple historic auctions are relevant for 5G including 28 GHz (March 1998 and May 1999) and 39 GHz (May 2000) and others. See www.fcc.gov/auctions for full details.
5G mmWave Global Availability
5G mmWave is starting to be deployed globally. A large increase in numbers of network deployments and user count is expected.
5g mmWave Planned deployments:
Thirteen countries/territories have announced formal (date-specified) plans for assigning 5G-suitable mmWave frequencies between now and end-2021 (including technology-neutral licences or licences for mobile broadband services). Many countries/territories are still deciding whether and when to hold auctions/assignments for mmWave spectrum. Announced events are shown here:
mmWave spectrum is becoming increasingly important for mobile telecoms and a number of trends will underpin the continued emergence of a 5G market that uses mmWave spectrum:
increasing numbers of operators with spectrum assignments in mmWave bands suitable for 5G deployments.
further auctions of mmWave spectrum in the coming years.
increasing investment in networks using these spectrum bands
commitments to launch compatible devices by device vendors.
Data and graphs from and (C) the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association)
Frequency bands for 5G NR FR2 are being separated into two different frequency ranges:
Frequency Range 1 (FR1)
Frequency Range 1 (FR1) includes sub-6GHz frequency bands, some of which are bands traditionally used by previous standards, but has been extended to cover potential new spectrum offerings from 410 MHz to 7125 MHz.
Frequency Range 2 (FR2)
Frequency Range 2 (FR2) includes frequency bands from 24.25 GHz to 52.6 GHz. Bands in this millimeter wave range have shorter range but higher available bandwidth than bands in the FR1.
Frequency bands and channel bandwidths
From the latest published version of the 3GPP TS 38.101, the following tables list the specified frequency bands and the channel bandwidths of the 5G NR standard.
Note that the NR bands are defined with prefix of “n”. When the NR band is overlapping with the 4G LTE band, they share the same band number.
The emergence of new 5G New Radio (5G NR or just 5G) standards for mobile cellular networks offer huge increases in capacity and performance. 5G has the potential to deliver a complete transformation of wireless communications. The spectrum for 5G services not only covers bands below 6 GHz, including bands currently used for 4G LTE networks, but also extends into much higher frequency bands not previously considered for mobile communications. It is the use of frequency bands in the 24 GHz to 100 GHz range, known as millimeter wave (mmWave), that provide new challenges and benefits for 5G networks.
The emergence of mmWave wireless is a key part of the 5G revolution, with available spectrum for mmWave, the supported bandwidths, and how antenna technologies work together to deliver multiple Gigabit data rates to end users. Deployment scenarios are considered where 5G mmWave networks will start to make an impact on everyday wireless communications.
The 5G mmWave Spectrum
The incredible demand for wireless data bandwidth shows no sign of slowing down now or in the near future. As a result, the mobile data experience for users continues to expand and develop, putting an increasing strain on network use of available wireless spectrum. To meet this projected growth, the cellular industry looked to other frequency bands that could possibly be utilized in the development of new 5G wireless technologies. The high-frequency bands in the spectrum above 24 GHz were considered as having the potential to support large bandwidths and high data rates, ideal for increasing the capacity of wireless networks. These high-frequency bands are often referred to as “mmWave” due to the short wavelengths that can be measured in millimeters. Although the mmWave bands extend all the way up 300 GHz, it is the bands from 24 GHz up to 100 GHz that are expected to be used for 5G. The mmWave bands up to 100 GHz are capable of supporting bandwidths up to 2 GHz, without the need to aggregate bands together for higher data throughput.
The available mmWave bands in the United States provides a good example of the spectrum that can be utilized for 5G networks. The FCC have made more spectrum available for 5G and have signaled that more licensed bands will be opened up for use.
The Challenges of 5G mmWave Deployment
Previously, the use of frequency bands much above 6 GHz was considered unsuitable for mobile communications due to the high propagation losses and the ease with which signals are blocked by not only building materials and foliage, but also by the human body. Although these challenges place limitations on mmWave deployments, new antenna technologies together with a better understanding of channel characteristics and signal propagation enable a number of deployment scenarios to be considered.
The high penetration losses and blocking mean that mmWave deployments will cover outdoor or indoor environments, but not provide outdoor to indoor connectivity. The mmWave cell sizes will, therefore, be smaller and higher in density. Also, it can be expected that mmWave will coexist in a tight integration with 5G deployments below 6 GHz as well as 4G LTE. Fast adaptation to changing channel conditions will enable switching within and across cells to maintain performance and coverage. In addition, there will almost certainly be a key role for Software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) in how networks operate and provide seamless connectivity for users.
At the core of basic 5G mmWave technology is a new air interface based on time-division duplexing and robust orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) methods similar to those as used in LTE and Wi-Fi networks. With peak throughput speeds of 10 Gbps or more and the ability to support a huge number of devices, 5G mmWave has performance targets that will deliver a transformation in how wireless communications are utilized.
5G mmWave uses Massive MIMO Antennas
Smaller cell sizes of 5G mmWave not only provides high throughput, but also allows for efficient use of spectrum as frequencies can be reused over relatively small distances. It is projected that outdoor cell sizes will be typically 100m to 200m and indoor high-density deployments might be as small as 10m. An important part of 5G mmWave performance is therefore dependent on line-of-sight (LOS) and non-line-of-sight (NLOS) propagation of signals and antenna design.
Great advancements made in RF silicon allow a large number RF chains to be supported in large antenna arrays. The computational and switching capacity available enables “massive multiple-input-multiple-output (massive MIMO)” antennas to create highly directional beams that focus transmitted energy in ways that can overcome path losses and NLOS conditions. A fundamental characteristic of mmWave, the short wavelengths, means that even massive MIMO antennas can be relatively compact and small effective antennas can be easily integrated into user devices. Whereas MIMO antennas for under 6 GHz wireless may support eight elements, at mmWave frequencies the number of massive MIMO elements might be 128, 256, or higher. These “phased arrays” perform the beam-forming, beam-steering, and beam-tracking techniques that enable a 5G mmWave network to deliver such high capacity and efficiency.
Likely 5G Millimeter Wave Deployment Scenarios
When outlining the requirements for 5G services, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) identified three main categories for the 5G NR architecture; Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) for greater mobile capacity, Ultra-reliable and Low-latency Communications (uRLLC) for mission-critical services, and Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) for vast numbers of low-cost, low-energy devices (Internet of Things). These broad areas provide plenty of early deployment possibilities for 5G mmWave, such as the following:
Fixed wireless Internet access. The Gigabit data rates of 5G mmWave could completely replace a number of Internet access technologies with hybrid fiber and wireless networks connecting subscriber homes. Although not truly a mobile system, it could provide competition to existing Wi-Fi systems that provide this type of fixed wireless access.
Outdoor urban/suburban small cells. An expected deployment scenario for 5G mmWave would be to provide increased capacity in high-demand public spaces and venues. With cell sizes around 100m, small 5G mmWave access points can be placed on poles or buildings to provide the required coverage.
Mission-critical control applications. Autonomous vehicles, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, drone communications, and other latency-sensitive, high-reliability applications provide other possible deployment scenarios for 5G mmWave with a projected network latency of less than a millisecond.
Indoor hotspot cells. Shopping malls, offices, and other indoor areas require a high-density of 5G mmWave micro cells. These small cells will potentially support download speeds of up to 20 Gbps, providing seamless access to cloud data and the ability to support multiple applications, as well as various forms of entertainment and multimedia.
Internet of Things. The general connectivity of objects, sensors, appliances and other devices for data collection, control, and analysis. Potentially could cover smart home applications, security, energy management, logistics and tracking, healthcare, and a multitude of other industrial operations.
The 5G mmWave Revolution
Implementation of new 5G mobile standards and the use of mmWave spectrum is expected to make major changes to the cellular industry. These mmWave bands being made available for mobile networks will provide increased performance, better coverage, and a closer integration across multiple wireless technologies from 4G LTE to Wi-Fi, to sub-6GHz 5G, as well as extending to the higher frequency 5G mmWave bands. Bringing all networks together will be an SDN architecture overlay that will provide seamless connectivity for an increasing number of users and networked devices.
5G mmWave is now being deployed in low-cost, small cell networks using massive MIMO antennas to deliver as much as 20 Gbps download rates to users, bringing the huge promise of 5G to fruit. When widely deployed, most expect a great increase in the number of applications and deployment scenarios that exploit the new mmWave 5G technology.