Roughly nine months after the federal government opened consultations on repurposing 3800MHz spectrum for 5G, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne has announced the government will repurpose the spectrum.
The announcement came late Friday ahead of the May long weekend and noted that 3800MHz, as well as 3500MHz, are spectrum bands considered key for 5G networks. These make up parts of what’s called ‘mid-band’ 5G or Sub-6.
As a refresher, Sub-6 refers to bands below 6GHz (6,000 MHz) and will make up the bulk of 5G connectivity as Canadian 5G networks evolve. There’s also low-band 5G, which covers spectrum below 1,000MHz (such as the 600MHz spectrum previously auctioned by the federal government) and high-band 5G, or mmWave, which uses radio waves in the 25-39GHz range. Low-band 5G doesn’t offer much more performance than 4G but has excellent range, while mmWave can cover a few hundred metres but offers gigabit speeds. Mid-band 5G offers a mix, with longer range than mmWave and faster speeds than low-band 5G.
Currently, 3800MHz spectrum is available for use by fixed satellite services. As part of the decision, those services will be limited to 4000 to 4200MHz spectrum by 2025 “with certain exceptions.” Further, the government noted fixed satellite services will be able to continue using the spectrum in remote areas that rely on satellite for critical services like broadband connectivity.
The government says wireless broadband service licensees in urban areas will transition by 2025, while licensees in rural areas will have until 2027.
“Our government is committed to making the right spectrum available to support the highest quality wireless services and the rollout of 5G technologies. We know these services will drive innovative new technologies, from clean energy to telemedicine, while also creating good jobs and new products for Canadians living in rural and remote areas,” Champagne said.
The government’s 3500MHz spectrum auction is scheduled to start on June 15th, 2021. However, the government doesn’t plan to auction 3800MHz spectrum until early 2023.