5G Business Models Will be Disparate in Early Rollouts
Ironically, in a business where capacity always has been expensive and scarce, internet access capacity is becoming less an issue than business models that take advantage of that abundance.
Those changes are coming at a time when revenue earned from selling access connections to humans, for devices they want to use, is reaching saturation. That is why internet of things is so important: services used by sensors and machines represent the major area for growth of connections and revenue.
So different business models are likely to emerge early in the 5G rollout. In some markets, millimeter wave spectrum will not be a factor, so use cases based on use of small cells might not emerge, either.
In a few markets, 5G in fixed mode might be quite significant; in other markets it will not be a factor.
Internet of things opportunities likewise will vary between regions; large companies versus small companies; urban areas versus rural areas; mobile and fixed use cases and between connectivity supported by 5G or specialized networks.
In some markets, 5G initially might be a way to supply "lots more bandwidth" for human users. Longer term, success is likely to depend on new services created to support sensor-based IoT apps and services.
That noted, longer term, the International Telecommunications Union has identified some frequency bands that can be globally harmonized, in the millimeter wave regions.
■ 24.25–27.5 GHz
■ 31.8–33.4 GHz
■ 37–40.5 GHz
■ 40.5–42.5 GHz
■ 45.5–50.2 GHz
■ 50.4–52.6 GHz
■ 66–76 GHz
■ 81–86 GHz
The U.S Federal Communications Commission already is moving to commercialize 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 64 GHz to 71 GHz bands for 5G and other uses. Of particular note, spectrum in the 64 GHz to 71 GHz band will be available on a license-exempt basis.
That seven gigaHertz of new unlicensed spectrum will create potential for possible new business models. What is important is the 11 GHz of new spectrum (including seven gigaHertz of unlicensed spectrum), plus another potential 18 gigaHertz of additional spectrum that might be made available in the U.S. market, dwarfing all existing spectrum previously allocated for public communications purposes.
All other things being equal, a service provider likely would prefer to use frequencies at 40 GHz or lower, as signal propagation is better within those regions, compared to all other millimeter wave frequencies. The next “window” of interest, in terms of coverage apps and use cases, is around 80 GHz. The 60-GHz band, by way of contrast, will have much worse propagation characteristics and therefore will make more sense for point-to-point apps where the signal can be highly focused, or for indoor and other settings where capacity--not coverage--is the biggest objective.