#HighBandSpectrum Key to 5G

Key Points: 

  • Need high band spectrum. To remain the global mobile leaders, high band spectrum, or millimeter wave, is vital. High band spectrum has the characteristics needed for 5G providing faster speeds, lower latency and connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
  • Create the rules based on time-tested regulatory framework. Given the importance of high band spectrum for Americans, we should balance licensed and unlicensed needs with simple rules that encourage continued innovation and investment.
  • Streamline siting and right of way rules. This is key to meeting the significant growth of data usage and video and the anticipated increase of connected devices. Since small cells use the latest technology, they can be deployed in less conspicuous ways such as in lampposts and bus stops. Local, state and federal policymakers need to recognize this kind of advancements in small cells and help facilitate deployment.  


America is in the race to 5G, and integral to remaining the world’s wireless leaders is more spectrum. Specifically, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is poised to vote in July 2016 on its Spectrum Frontiers PDF icon proceeding, which would make 10,000 MHz of high band spectrum, also known as millimeter wave, available for companies to serve America. We need the FCC to act in July on High Band spectrum to ensure the US can continue to lead in 5G as we have done in 4G. 

Originally viewed as unsuitable for mobile, wireless engineers developed technology so that high band spectrum could be used. The characteristics of high band spectrum aligns well with the needs of 5G, which means consumers will benefit with 10x faster speeds, 5x more responsive (ultra-low latency) and 100x more devices.  

With 10,000 MHz of high band spectrum available, this means wireless companies will be able to have large swaths of spectrum to provide very high speed data. Currently, spectrum bands are available in 5 to 10 MHz blocks, but high band spectrum will mean at least 200 MHz are made available to handle more traffic and bandwidth-intensive usage (e.g., ultra-high definition video, virtual reality & augmented reality, etc.). 

In addition, more devices and more data usage requires more cell sites. Thanks to wireless engineers, these cell sites are increasingly smaller, and can be deployed less conspicuously in everyday objects like bus stops and lampposts. Since small cells are essential for capacity and 5G, local, state and federal policymakers need to streamline siting and right of way rules that recognize these advancements. 

Given the technical challenges of high band spectrum, the FCC needs to adopt simple rules that are time-tested and proven, such as those imposed on the 700 MHz and AWS-3 bands. Both licensed and unlicensed use should be made available, but we must avoid unproven ideas such as experimental sharing or other non-exclusive arrangements.

With more spectrum, the wireless industry will continue to serve as a key economic driver. America’s 4G leadership generates more than $400 billion annually in economic impact and directly supports one million jobs. With 5G and IoT, it’s projected to spur even more innovation, jobs and productivity to be valued at least $2.7 trillion. 

High band spectrum is extremely important to America remaining world’s wireless leader, but we also need more low- and mid-band spectrum. While spectrum bands have different characteristics, they are all important to meeting Americans’ demand for mobile-first lifestyles.

Last Updated: ​​June 2016
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