Today on Recalibrate, we welcome back Derek Johnston and Alok Shah of Samsung Networks to help us navigate the minefield of technical jargon when it comes to 5G, and unpack how the technical specifics are driving its future applications.
For starters, host Jason Claybrook helps define and analyze “spectrum”. Many are unaware that in each country, there’s an invisible dissection of airwaves, or radio waves, called spectrum, that decides which waves and bandwidth are allotted to which radio, TV, and private network providers and applications, including the Department of Defense and US Government. The FCC decides who can procure what, and a lot of it is done through auction, which can be very expensive. There’s a lot of demand for it, and it’s a very competitive market.
What makes it even more complicated is that although there are some particular ranges of spectrum that are “harmonized,: most aren’t. For example, in the United States, around 30 might be available at auction, but in another country, it might be something else entirely. This makes it difficult for providers like Samsung who have to then install different hardware. There are some spectrums that are harmonized and this is creating an entirely new world of possibilities.
For the longest time, the most commonly used spectrum was between 400 MHz and 5 GHz (sub 6 GHz), a spread that included WiFi and cellular data. However, there’s an entirely different and interesting new range above 6 GHz that’s starting to draw some attention. It has been owned by various companies since the late 90s, but is finally reaching a point of accessibility.
“OEMs like us have been looking at how to leverage that particular spectrum effectively to deliver wireless services,” Johnston said. Up until now, people have only been able to leverage point-to-point communications, which limits mobility. “Along the last decade, Samsung and others have researched how to take that [above six gigahertz] spectrum and do more with it… because it offers tantalizing potential.”