Ready for C-Band spectrum? Nokia says it is
Nokia is putting 5G New Radio through its paces in C-Band spectrum in Dallas, Texas and says that it successfully completed a series of over-the-air 5G tests and reached “stable peak throughput speeds” of more than 1 Gbps using its 5G AirScale portfolio.
The hotly anticipated C-Band spectrum (3.7-4.2 GHz) is expected to be auctioned in December of this year to provide mid-band airwaves for 5G service, and Nokia said that deployments could come as soon as the first half of 2021. A lack of mid-band spectrum has been a weak spot in the U.S.’ 5G enablement strategy; the Federal Communications Commission is seeking to rectify that by allowing terrestrial wireless operations in the C-Band, which has historically been the province of satellite operators.
Nokia said that its 5G C-Band tests in Dallas’ Cypress Waters neighborhood used its commercial AirScale 5G base station equipment, leveraging 100 megahertz of spectrum at 3.75 GHz in 5G NonStandalone mode, with 4×4 multiple-input multiple-output and Nokia’s core network. “During drive testing, Nokia monitored network performance and demonstrated that the ‘handovers’ successfully happened between C-Band base stations as expected. The connection and performance was stable throughout the entire test, highlighting the robustness of the solution and its readiness for commercial implementation,” Nokia added.
The vendor said that the tests “confirmed that Nokia’s solution is ready for commercial deployment ahead of the U.S. C-band spectrum auction in December” and called the C-Band “a crucial resource for operators to offer the best mix of 5G network capacity and coverage to subscribers across the U.S.” The differences between already-shipping 3.5 GHz global equipment from Nokia and C-Band-capable equipment are “hardware changes needed to match the exact frequency range and country specific RF requirements,” the company said, which it called “low technical risk based on Nokia’s already commercial platforms.” The vendor said that it is also offering U.S. carriers an ORAN-compliant option for C-Band deployment: its 5G AirScale Cloud RAN solution in vRAN2.0 configuration, meaning that the whole baseband will be cloud-connected to the radio via an ORAN compliant eCPRI 7.2x interface.
Earlier this week, satellite provider Intelsat announced that it had contracted for six new satellites to help it meet the FCC’s accelerated spectrum-clearing timeline for the C-Band. That accelerated clearing timeline offers billions of dollars in incentive payments to satellite operators to clear the 280 megahertz of C-Band spectrum, plus a 20-megahertz guard band; satellite operators will have to transition existing services out of the lower portion of the band into the upper 200 megahertz of the band, which extends from 3.7-4.2 GHz. The federal agency has proposed lump-sum payments to satellite operators who commit to voluntarily relocating their operations in the band in two phases, with a first clearing phase deadline of December 5, 2021 and a second-phase deadline of December 5, 2023. Today is the deadline for satellite operators to submit band transition plans.