September 9, 2015 — The millimeter wave bands are heating up…and not just for cooking. Nokia Networks is putting some pressure on the FCC to consider 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz, and some others, for 5G, as part of the FCC’s proceeding that looks at the use of spectrum bands above 24 GHz.
In a filing submitted to the FCC last week, Nokia argues that 5G needs both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, just like 3G and 4G. Their reasoning behind that is that the carrier-grade, unlicensed model, while attractive, remains “unproven” and licensed spectrum creates a better platform for investment.
Nokia points out that a much anticipated solution to meet 4G data demand is network densification with small cells. Most 4G small cells will be deployed on street “furniture.”
The latest from Sprint, if it isn’t just bet hedging, is to add, “Tens of thousands” of small cells to its network – we’ll see. Verizon is also working to densify its network through small cells, but isn’t talking any numbers.
The nice thing is that Nokia is talking about the E-Band. I believe this band is ideal for many of the small cell deployments, mainly because of its propagation footprint. Similar antenna and transceiver technologies to the 60 GHz band can be used, and the technology can provide simultaneous access and backhaul for 4G and 5G, according to Nokia’s filing.
Still, millimeter-wave frequencies aren’t all glitz. Narrow beamwidths, high penetration losses and diminished diffraction are some of the obstacles that have to be overcome at these frequencies. Additionally, the technology doesn’t have good models for acquiring and tracking user devices within the coverage area of the base station because of the narrow beam antenna. There are also some issues with opaque obstacles. All typical E-Band frequency metrics.
Still, Nokia seems confident. They are prepping for 5G commercial network launches in 2020. It is one of the leading companies doing research in that area so I do have a level of confidence in the company. They started working on 5G with NTT DoCoMo in 2014 and delivered a millimeter-wave trial the same year. They also completed field tests with DoCoMo earlier this year. I think if anyone can do it, Nokia can.