26 and 28 GHz: driving great 5G

The introduction of 5G pioneers a new level of mobile performance with ultra-high speeds and low latencies. Millimetre wave spectrum is crucial to enable this performance and the 26 GHz and 28 GHz have emerged as two of the most important bands in this range.

5G’s success depends on the timely release of more widely harmonised spectrum. This point is particularly important as preparations for the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) accelerate.

As with previous generations, 5G is dependent on different spectrum bands. The three ranges are: Sub-1 GHz, 1-6 GHz and above 6 GHz.

The 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands fall in the latter group and the amount of spectrum available makes them an exciting resource for mobile networks. Trials use hundreds of megahertz to demonstrate multi-gigabit speeds. That is a major step up from today’s LTE networks, which in most cases make do with tens of megahertz.

The momentum for the bands has been growing, with trials happening across the world. For now, most trials are using 28 GHz. The end of February saw over 20 operators trialling 5G networks using the band, according to GSMA Intelligence. In Australia, Telstra is pioneering the use 26 GHz with its field trial.

At Mobile World Congress, prototype 5G smartphones, fixed wireless routers, cars, smart glasses, laptops and tablets highlighted the wide variety of devices that are likely to launch during the next couple of years. On the network side, base stations of different sizes showed the potential to cover any area or location. With the right regulatory framework, city centres, offices, train stations, sports stadiums, trains and more can all get coverage.

The 26 GHz range is one of the bands WRC-19 is considering. For regulators and governments, it is a great opportunity to lay the groundwork for successful 5G rollouts and engagement is vital; the work done today will set the framework for the future.

The spectrum identification, allocation and assignment process is a long-term effort. Spectrum identified at WRC-19 will be in use for decades to come so it is important to shape 5G in your country today, irrespective of when the first commercial 5G services arrive.

At the same time, the global marketplace is driving the need for additional frequencies to meet the demands for 5G, such as the 28 GHz band. The GSMA fully backs actions by governments and operators in many countries to test and use the 28 GHz band for 5G under an existing mobile allocation in the ITU’s Radio Regulations.

In the end, the whole range from 24.25 GHz to 29.5 GHz is important and it is up to countries to decide how they want to move forward. The important part is that exciting new mobile services can be rolled out under fair conditions. Only when that is in place, mobile operators get the opportunity to show 5G’s true potential.

Read more about millimetre waves and 5G on the GSMA’s 5G spectrum guide.