Comparison of Total Mobile Spectrum in Different Markets

Whilst mid-band spectrum continues to be the focus of initial 5G deployment around the world, mobile carriers are also expected to wish to refarm licensed mobile spectrum between 600MHz and 3GHz for 5G use, as 5G penetration grows.

This paper references previous papers prepared by Analysys Mason for CTIA on 5G plans, and assesses the total mobile spectrum available in different world markets. It captures licensed and unlicensed spectrum availability in low bands (below 2.6GHz), mid bands (between 3GHz and 7GHz) and high bands (in the millimeter-wave (mmWave) region), and contrasts total spectrum in the US with that available in other markets. The following countries are considered: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and the US.

We have estimated the total spectrum in each market currently, and that expected to be available in the future. Expected availability takes account of proposals published by regulators in each market in relation to making additional mobile spectrum (licensed and/or unlicensed) available.

A summary of our key findings is as follows:

Low Band

  • A key pillar of the US 4G decade was the large amount of licensed low-band spectrum made available to wireless providers. Analysys Mason’s research shows that the US is the leading benchmark country in this regard, with a total of 752MHz available.
  • Several countries are planning to make further licensed low-band spectrum available: future low-band assignments for these countries, on average, will total 90MHz. This means that commercial access to the 1.3GHz and 1.7GHz bands will be an important element of continued US low-band leadership.

Mid band

  • With 1860MHz of unlicensed mid-band spectrum available, the US is a significant outlier, as this is 3.2 times more than the next closest countries (Hong Kong, Qatar, and the UK, each with 580MHz of unlicensed mid-band spectrum). The recent US addition of 1200MHz of unlicensed spectrum in the 6GHz band is 2.4 times more than the average amount of additional unlicensed mid-band spectrum other countries are considering making available in the next few years.
  • In a key range of global 5G spectrum (3.3-3.6GHz), the US today has no licensed spectrum available, while other countries that have made these airwaves available average nearly 200MHz. However, the US would become one of the leading benchmark countries if it made 250MHz (or more) of spectrum available in the lower 3GHz band, as some have proposed, and the FCC and NTIA are exploring with commercial providers.

Mid/high band

  • Across the mid and high bands, the US today has made available 15 860MHz of unlicensed spectrum and just 5550MHz of licensed spectrum, meaning policymakers have made around three times as much unlicensed spectrum as licensed spectrum available. Over the next few years, the share of available licensed spectrum is expected to increase to roughly 55% (8900MHz of licensed vs. 15 905MHz of unlicensed spectrum).

High band

  • The US currently leads the world in terms of the amount of licensed high-band spectrum, though China may catch up. In the next few years, China could make 8250MHz of licensed high-band spectrum available, just below the 8300MHz the US could make available.

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