The C-band auction in the United States is drawing lots of attention, and proceeds – to date the current bids reached over $23 billion, with estimates of the final bids reaching upwards of $35 billion prior to the auction. In comparison, the CBRS auction held earlier this year garnered $4.5 billion, with winners including major mobile carriers as well as enterprise organizations who plan to use the spectrum to stand up private networks.
With MoffettNathanson calling the C-band auction “what may be the most important wireless auction of our time,” the potential for C-band use in the US opens many opportunities for the 57 approved bidders, which includes major mobile carriers, cable companies, and smaller mobile and fixed wireless operators. As anticipation rises for the outcome of the auction, here’s some food for thought in the meantime: what opportunities lie in the C-band?
Major Wireless Carriers See Opportunity To Capitalize on 5G Expansion
With 5G being a significant focus for major carriers in the US, the C-band spectrum offers the potential to enhance coverage and capacity for 5G networks. The “big three” carriers of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are bidding in the auction, and are expected to take advantage of the effective, cost-efficient spectrum to expand their networks and enable the possibilities of 5G networks connecting people and things.
Enhancing Wireless Coverage for Rural Communities
Outside of the major wireless carriers, smaller local operators bidding in the auction seek to offer bandwidth and wireless coverage to consumers in rural communities, which would provide more reliable mobile access to underserved areas. With the recent pandemic pushing employees to work from home and students to remote learning environments, gaps in internet access have recently become more prevalent, and the opportunity to provide better coverage to rural are available to local carriers through the spectrum auction.
Enterprise Use Cases for C-Band
While operators may focus their license usage on the consumer space, the enterprise can also benefit from the mid-band spectrum with the ability to stand up private networks to support business-critical operations and enable 5G applications within the spectrum. Use cases for the C-band have been dubbed “exciting” – from VR/AR gaming, to autonomous vehicles, to AR/VR-assisted surgeries, to smart cities, seemingly every industry can benefit from 5G applications in the C-band.
Considerations for C-Band License Winners
Network densification and small cells: Increasing amounts of 5G spectrum will necessitate rapid network densification – both indoors and outdoors. In the case of the US C-band, together with the CBRS spectrum, the 3 Ghz band will become key spectrum real estate that MNOs and enterprises will need to utilize for small cell deployments both indoors and outdoors.
OpenRAN is a must have: As spectrum availability increases for 5G, it will need a much bigger ecosystem of radio / access point vendors to service the increased demand. This is necessary to drive innovation via competition and drive competitive pricing, thereby reducing capex. This underscores the need for faster adoption of OpenRAN.
C-Band Usage Globally
C-band auction and use is not new. Across the world, other countries are using the C-band for mobile broadband and 5G. Earlier in 2020, the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) released a report identifying 23 countries that had already auctioned or allocated C-band spectrum, with some of the first including Australia, Austria, Czechia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain and the UK, according to Fierce Wireless.
Additionally, the report identified nearly 30 other countries with scheduled C-band auctions or new or additional allocations of mid-band spectrum, including Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Israel, India, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Poland, South Africa, and Sweden, according to RCR Wireless.
As the C-band frees up for commercial and enterprise use around the world, the demand for certain specific products that properly function within the spectrum will increase.
All Eyes on Auction 107
As the progress of the C-band auction in the United States unfolds, it will be interesting to see who wins licenses, and with the potential for a variety of 5G applications in the spectrum, it will be even more intriguing to see how they ultimately intend to use it.
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