Initial 5G deployments are currently focusing on enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) while mainstream deployment frequencies are predominantly on C-band, i.e., 3.4 GHz to 4.2 GHz. According to ABI Research latest work on tracking 5G deployments, more than 75% of deployments across the world are in C-band. This band offers adequate network capacity improvements, but its drawback lies in its relatively limited transmission coverage compared to current 4G networks, especially for the uplink, where the handset transmit power is limited. In an ideal scenario, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) prefer lower band spectrum, e.g., sub 3 GHz, to boost their 5G coverage. However, most mid- and low- spectrum bands have already been allocated to other terrestrial services, like 2G/3G/4G, which means that re-farming this spectrum for 5G use will require the sunsetting of these existing services, which is typically a multi-year process. In the meantime, due to COVID-19, auctions for 5G spectrum have been postponed in many countries. In the race to complete their 5G deployments, MNOs are in dire need of working out more efficient methods to solve the above spectrum problems with their partners.
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