henningFCC Chief Technologist Henning Schulzrine startled the engineers at a high level 5G wireless event by predicting a complete turnaround in spectrum policy and licensing.

Instead of "licensing" monopoly use of spectrum, "All new spectrum would be shared." That corresponds to the opinions of nearly all impartial top engineers, but of course is heresy to lobbyists in the EU and U.S.

Shared spectrum is better, but I fear Henning is being optimistic about what the politicians will do.

In the EU, Ottinger is talking instead about lengthening the monopoly terms. Across the globe, regulators are designating 3.5 GHz mostly for monopoly use. In the U.S., the FCC is planning more auctions and possibly rolling back the rules for sharing.

"Share everything" (Henning)

Henning asked me to clarify an earlier version of this article. Sharing does not necessarily mean completely unlicensed, like Wi-Fi. The 3.5 GHz band combines a variety of models. If I have this right, the 3.5 GHz band is divided between "unlicensed," "lightly licensed,' and a limited number of more restrictive licenses. (As well as certain locations and bands that continued to be reserved for the military.) Wi-Fi is good evidence sharing can work, given enough spectrum, but not the only way to share. His comment shouldn't be interpreted to mean it is all going to be like 2.4/5.8 GHz.

No one disputes that some spectrum should be reserved for monopoly use, at least on a regional level. That's important for public safety and (at least for many years) control channels. No one has studied this in depth; my guess is that completely reserved spectrum could be reduced to 20-50 MHz/company, half what most major telcos have today. Beyond that, the carriers can explore for unused spectrum and in almost all likely cases find plenty.

At least 50% of the usable spectrum is fallow today, even in congested cities. See Dennis Roberson's work. This isn't news; I remember Dave Farber holding up an amazing chart more than a decade ago. 

That's exactly what AT&T intends to do with LAA later this year in the Wi-Fi band. Their radios would "listen" to make sure a band is empty, "before talking" on that band.Verizon and Qualcomm testing convinced every engineer I've discussed this with that will work. The current 3GPP rules have problems, including an inappropriate noise floor. That needs to be solved. 

This very open and free sharing is just starting to deploy. It would take 10-15 years to upgrade the networks fully. It would also require some modest "rules of the road." In particular, neither Wi-Fi nor anything else should commonly use 80 MHz or 160 MHz, unless it's clearly free. Stanford Professors Cioffi & Goldsmith in 2014 pointed out the greed in 802.11 ac. LTE-U can have the same problem.

Efficient sharing normally at least doubles wireless capacity and often increases capacity 500% or more.  

dave askJuly 2017 Gigabit LTE is real in 2017. So is 5G Massive MIMO. 5G mmWave to fixed antennas is likely 2018, with mobile to follow. China, Japan, Korea, and Verizon U.S. have planned $500B for "5G," with heavy investment expected 2019-2021. 

Being a reporter is a great job for a geek. I'm not an engineer but I've learned from some of the best, including the primary inventors of DSL, cable modems, MIMO, Massive MIMO, and now 5G mmWave. Since 1999, I've done my best to get closer to the truth about broadband.

Wireless One - W1 replaces 5gwnews.com in July 2017. Send questions and news to Dave Burstein, Editor.