On Choosing the Right Spectrum for 5G

July 9, 2020 10:07 am Published by

by Hai HU, Senior Communications Systems Engineer at AsiaSat

Higher data rates, ultra-low latency and support for thousands of devices in one location, these are some of the promises of 5G mobile that have caught tremendous media attention.

5G is being billed as a revolutionary force that will transform the way we live and work, which warrants taking C-band spectrum away from satellite-based applications to speed up service availability. But the real story is that many things on the road to 5G remain uncertain.

It is our view that C-band is not the correct band to support the key performance indicators (KPIs) promised by 5G. While it may be easy – may be even exciting, to dream of all the new 5G mobile use cases and wider uptake of Internet of Things (IoT) applications, mobile operators will need to spend more on 5G mobile infrastructure, with frequency spectrum being only just one of the many line items.

For nearly five decades, satellites have been used to complement landline infrastructure by connecting the world’s underserved regions, and providing broadcast and emergency back-up services. Hundreds of millions of TV households in the Asia-Pacific rely on satellite service for the delivery of multichannel TV. As mobile operators take up portions of C-band spectrum to “kick-start” commercial 5G deployment in various Asian cities, they are cannibalizing satellite bandwidth that could have been deployed to provide service over a continent-wide footprint. 

What is worse, the use offor C-band for commercial 5G deployment amounts to only a temporary phase while scaling up for wider use. In our recent White Paper entitled “Choosing the Right Spectrum for 5G,” we have shown that 5G data rates achieved by C-band spectrum may not meet the KPI goals when the number of simultaneous users increases. In other words, the reallocation of C-band spectrum may ease the transition to 5G, but with the expected increase in 5G users, it would provide only an incremental improvement over existing 4G mobile service.

It will be a matter of time before mobile operators will need to use a much higher frequency, such as the millimeter wave spectrum (mmWave), to facilitate mass-market adoption. Not only is there much wider bandwidth available to meet data throughput requirements, but user experienced data rates would improve with reduced coverage range.

It typically takes a whole decade or even longer to complete the transition to the next generation of mobile technology, and 5G will be no different. It will take time to scale up to nationwide (or territory-wide) service, and mobile operators would want to recoup from the past investments. It will be quite some time before they can fully capture value from new 5G use cases.


For more information, please refer to Hai Hu’s White Paper entitled “Choosing the Right Spectrum for 5G”.

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This post was written by AsiaSat