News Feature | November 20, 2018

The Week In 5G: 11/20/2018 – FCC Begins 5G High-Band Auctions, Huawei To Unveil 5G-Capable Folding Phone At MWC

By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq


The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has initiated the spectrum auction of Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) licenses in the 28 GHz band, which is to be followed shortly by an auction in the 24 GHz band. Three more auctions in the 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz millimeter wave bands are scheduled in 2019. The auctions will offer “more spectrum than is currently used for terrestrial mobile broadband by all wireless service providers combined,” according to FCC.

“These airwaves will be critical in deploying 5G services and applications,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, reported Reuters. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr added that the spectrum being auctioned will allow for “faster broadband to autonomous cars, from smart ag (agriculture) to telehealth.”

As of Monday, FCC's bids board for the 28 GHz auction shows 10 rounds have been completed since the auction began on November 14, with 2,220 provisionally winning bids (PWBs) from 40 qualified bidders spending a total of $103,838,810. FCC holds 852 remaining items up for grabs in the next 18 rounds of auction, which will be open as long as bids are placed. The auction for the 24 GHz band will start immediately after this one ends.

The aggregate minimum bid over all licenses is about $40 million, a relatively low amount set by FCC to invite more players building next-generation wireless networks and help close the rural broadband divide, noted Multichannel.

Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the U.S. was just now following “the lead of South Korea, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Australia. But we put ourselves back in the running for next-generation wireless leadership”.

Some analysts have put the U.S. behind China in 5G R&D and network deployments. China has even started to research about 6G this year, according to Tech In Asia. Su Xin, head of 5G technology working group at China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, reportedly said that the actual development of 6G will officially begin in 2020, but commercial use will most likely have to wait until 2030.

For its part, FCC has changed its rules to make it easier for private companies to deploy 5G networks, and is one of the lead agencies formulating a comprehensive national 5G wireless spectrum strategy announced by U.S. President Donald Trump last month.

In contrast to FCC's spectrum auction being already underway, German regulator Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Post and Railway) is yet to present the final terms for a highly-contested spectrum auction slated for Nov. 26. Germany's top telecom companies claim said terms – even after being revised to accommodate some concessions - remain unfair.

According to Handelsblatt Global, Deutsche Telekom complained that the agency’s demands for a nationwide 5G network were “economically unrealistic,” while rival Vodafone has even threatened to sue because certain terms “would be illegal.” For its part, Telefónica Deutschland fears “an operational and financial challenge for the network operators,” even as they are not obliged to offer 100 percent coverage, as originally required.

In related news, four Vietnamese telecom firms are set to receive licenses to test 5G in January 2019, according to Mobile World Live. Vietnamobile, MobiFone, along with state-owned companies Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) and Viettel Group, are tasked "to launch 5G services in order to move" Vietnam "up in global telecom rankings," said Nguyen Manh Hung, the country’s minister of Information and Communications.

Meanwhile, Faroese Telecom, which provides communications services to the Faroe Islands, is in talks to provide 5G services to neighboring North Atlantic archipelagos Shetland and Orkney. According to Tech Radar, Faroese Telecom had been planning to offer services to the Scottish Isles since 2016, and has a subsea cable linking Orkney and Shetland with the Faroes and the Scottish mainland. Orkney is host to one of the UK’s 5G testbeds, with the 5GRural First project led by Cisco and the University of Strathclyde trialing 5G broadcast radio and smart farming initiatives, according to the report.

In technology news, Huawei reportedly will unveil its own foldable smartphone at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February 2019. Unlike Samsung's foldable Galaxy F device teased several days ago, Huawei's handset is said to be 5G-capable. The Huawei phone “was more complete than expected,” a senior official told ETNews, according to BGR.

Huawei's phone will feature two screens, including an 8-inch internal display, and a 5-inch external screen. In comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy F features 4.6-inch and 7.3-inch displays. Both devices will hit store shelves sometime in the first half of 2019.

Related, Huawei this week released its 5G LampSite Family solutions that will allow 5G indoor networks.

"With 5G," Huawei stated, "more than 70 percent of services will be provided indoors. Panoramic HD video, VR, cloud gaming, and cloud PC will be predominantly performed indoors. Forecasts show that 70 percent of data traffic will be generated indoors in 5G."

Penetration of 5G signals for indoor use will be critical for the technology's growth and adoption, and could even supplant Wi-Fi as handler of the bulk (up to 80 percent, currently) of mobile handset-originated data traffic, noted Telecom TV. Yet, WiFi proponents claim that many of the applications made possible by 5G also can be accomplished using the latest version of Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 6). 

5G signals from small cells and towers have residents of the Greater Cincinnati metropolitan area worried about perceived health hazards these installations pose to residents. Monique Maisenhalter, a resident of Greenhills, Ohio, is leading a local petition to stop 5G infrastructure construction.

"Some say it will be every three to 10 houses," she told WCPO Cincinnati. Maisenhalter cited studies from environmental groups worldwide, claiming that cell tower radiation -- up close -- can possibly cause health issues. "This is harmful, there is decades of research saying this is harmful," she said. "Even if people don't think it will hurt them, it is enough to lower property values because many people are not sure."