Low-Band Spectrum for LTE and 5G – May 2021

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Low-Band Spectrum for LTE and 5G – May 2021

INTRODUCTION

This report provides a snapshot of the global status of national usage of spectrum below 1 GHz (low-band spectrum) for LTE and 5G services. It is part of a series of reports which separately also cover spectrum from 1 to 6 GHz (mid-band spectrum) and spectrum above 24 GHz (high-band spectrum).

Low-band spectrum is very important for expanding network coverage in all urban/suburban/rural deployment scenarios, ensuring service continuity across different geographies, enhancing service quality in indoor environments and helping to close the digital divide. Mobile operators are demanding low-band spectrum, and some specific bands like 410–430 MHz, 450 MHz or GSM-R 900 MHz also play an important role in specific industries for the creation of private networks. For these reasons, GSA foresees an increase in the number of auctions of low-band spectrum in the coming years, as well as 5G NR deployments using already assigned spectrum licences.

This report reflects a market that is in constant evolution and feedback is greatly appreciated to keep it current. Please send comments and information to research@gsacom.com.

Key statistics:

  • 515 operators in 173 countries/territories hold licences enabling launch of LTE or 5G using low-band spectrum.
  • 396 operators in 158 countries/territories are known to have launched LTE or 5G networks using low-band spectrum.
  • 15,206 LTE devices support one or more frequency bands in the low-band range (out of 19,496 LTE devices in GSA’s GAMBoD database); in addition, GSA has identified 316 announced 5G devices that support low-band spectrum bands for NR, 219 of which are already commercially available.
  • thirty-seven countries/territories have announced formal (date-specified) plans for allocating 5G-suitable low-band frequencies between now and 2022 (including technology-neutral licences or licences for mobile broadband services).
  • 33 of those are planning to auction/allocate spectrum at 700 MHz.

Use of low-band spectrum for LTE and 5G

Several key low-band spectrum bands are used for LTE and 5G. Many of the same bands are also used for networks based on 2G or 3G technologies (but those are not analysed in this report).

As Figure 1 shows, the 800 MHz band is most used, followed by 700 MHz (APT range), then 900 MHz and 700 MHz (US ranges).

Deployment details for the various bands are:

450 MHz (Band 31): GSA has identified 14 operators as investing in LTE at 450 MHz. At least ten of them have launched LTE in this band.

600 MHz (Band 71): 37 operators are identified as investing in spectrum at 600 MHz, at least three of which have launched both LTE and 5G services in the range and another two have launched 5G. Spectrum has been awarded in Canada and the USA (plus territories). Guatemala, Mexico, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia have plans for assignment of spectrum at 600 MHz.

700 MHz: 205 operators investing in LTE across the key 700 MHz bands:

145 operators have been identified as investing in APT 700 MHz spectrum (Band 28 and Band n28: 703–748 MHz/758–803 FDD), including 139 with licences, of which 66 have launched commercial LTE or 5G services in the band. Three operators have launched both, 55 have launched LTE and eight have launched 5G.

GSA has also identified 99 operators investing in LTE in one of the American 700 MHz bands (Bands 12, 13 ,14 or 17, between them covering 75 MHz within 699 MHz and 798 MHz). Of those, 81 have used one of the bands to launch their LTE network. GSA has not identified any 5G launches in Bands n12, n13, n14, or n17, although one operator is planning a 5G network and another operator is currently deploying a 5G network in this band.

Band 20: (832–862 MHz/791–821 MHz) is the most-used individual band, with 227 operators investing in LTE using this frequency range, including 199 that are understood to have launched networks, 26 other licensed operators and two more planning networks. No operators have been recorded with 5G networks using Band n20, although two have been engaged in 5G trials in that band.

Low-Band Spectrum for LTE and 5G – May 2021

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Low-Band Spectrum for LTE and 5G - May 2021

© GSA 2021