The Federal Communications Commission took its first big step toward freeing up 100 megahertz of wireless spectrum currently being used for the military and making it available for 5G service. On Wednesday, the agency adopted rules and proposed additional changes to the 3.3-3.55GHZ band of spectrum that'll pave the way toward an auction of the spectrum to commercial service providers.
This swath of spectrum has been used by the federal military. In August, the White House and Department of Defense determined it could be shared with commercial providers for 5G service. They urged the FCC to begin drafting rules for an auction to take place in December 2021.
5G is the next generation of wireless technology rolling out across the world, promising to deliver much faster wireless service and a more responsive network. Its ability to connect more devices and offer real-time feedback is expected to spark a sea change in how we live and work, ushering in new advances like self-driving cars and advanced augmented reality experiences.
Midband spectrum, which is in the 2.5GHzz and 3.5GHz range of frequencies, provides more-balanced coverage and capacity due to its ability to cover a several-mile radius with 5G, despite needing more cell sites than lower-tiered spectrum bands.
AT&T and Verizon didn't initially focus on these spectrum bands for 5G and instead invested in millimeter wave spectrum -- extremely high-frequency radio airwaves that offer essentially a souped-up Wi-Fi hotspot.
But now these carriers are looking to use midband spectrum for 5G, especially as they seek to offer 5G to more suburban markets.
"The FCC took another important step today in getting much-needed mid-band spectrum to market to fuel our country's 5G future," Will Johnson, a senior vice president of regulatory and legal affairs for Verizon, said in a statement. "With its vote on the 3.45GHz band, the Commission is making additional, prime spectrum available that will extend the reach of 5G."