News Feature | October 28, 2021

The Week in 5G: UAS Corridor Develops in Central NY, India's Spectrum Auction & Rollout Could See 1-Year Delay

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By Abby Proch, Electronics Editor

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Harnessing the power of 5G, New York State is establishing an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) testing corridor between Syracuse and Rome. According to the Oneida Dispatch, the state’s governor Kathy Hochul recently announced ITRE Engenuity Open Generation 5G Consortium will provide 5G services to the 50-mile UAS corridor, which will house an experimentation hub and over 100 square miles of 5G beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and long-range flight paths. Over the past five years, the state has committed almost $70 million to support UAS innovations in the region.

Similarly, the European Space Agency (ESA) has picked CGI to develop a proof of concept that would improve upon its existing UAS navigational capabilities. As the unmanned aircraft industry takes off, the need for BVLOS operations will likely increase, especially in crowded environments where global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) signals are often spotty, according to a report by GPS World. CGI, and its partners, have been tapped to use 5G networks, alongside existing navigation systems, to create a hybrid positioning solution and to thwart disruptions to positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT).

In rollout news, India’s spectrum auction and therefore 5G rollout could be delayed by a year. According to 91mobiles, the country could see a one-year delay in its next spectrum auction — to be scheduled sometime in early 2022 — if a request by telecom operators to extend 5G trials is granted. Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone India have asked the country’s Department of Telecom (DoT) to grant a one-year extension to the country’s 5G trial period, which is set to expire Nov. 26. The three telecoms have been testing their 5G capabilities on the 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz, and 26 GHz bands throughout 2021 but said they need more time due to an underdeveloped “5G ecosystem.”

Also in India, the country’s regulator is asking the DoT whether 26 GHz and 28GHz bands will be available for 5G services before it recommends base prices for them in the next spectrum auction, according to ET Telecom. The particular mmWave bands have not yet been included in the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP), which would detail whether the spectrum bands could be used for both 5G and satellite services. It’s of particular concern as telecoms want the space to deploy affordable 5G mobile broadband and satellite operators, such as Hughes, SpaceX, and Viasat, want the 28 GHz band to deliver high-speed broadband from space.

In other satcom news, Starlink is reportedly interested in sharing spectrum with UK-based telecom Vodafone. According to Advanced Television, the partnership, if actualized, would allow Starlink to provide broadband services to rural and underserved areas of the UK. What’s not clear is whether the arrangement would allow for the sharing of spectrum only or if it would also allow Starlink to use Vodafone’s ground-based infrastructure.

In automotive advances, Volkswagen is piloting a private 5G network at its plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. The “campus network” operates on private 3.7 to 3.8 GHz with 100 MHz bandwidth, as granted by the country’s Federal Network Agency, according to Wards Auto. The dedicated radio frequency allows VW to operate its 5G network, supplied by Nokia, with no interference, reduced latency, and greater security. The automaker is testing whether 5G will be able to support its industrial series production.

In rollout news, there is increasing demand on metal foundries to design and produce bigger, more resilient housings for 5G base stations. According to Spotlight Metal, metal foundries are investing in larger machines and new techniques, such as semi-solid casting, to support the growing 5G base station market, which is projected by Market Research Future to grow 3.76% from 2020 to 2027. 5G housings and shields must now be bigger and withstand greater temperatures than their predecessors.  

Also regarding roll outs, Crown Castle announced it anticipates a 20 percent jump in core tower leasing in 2022, according to a company press release. The communications technology provider says the demand is approximately 60% higher than the average over the past five years with its towers business.