American Tower operates 178.8k towers, which support all key 5G spectrum bands, in addition to fiber and small cells. The company operates towers in the United States (40.6k), India (73.6k), Latin America (40.9k), Africa (18.8k) Europe (4.8k).
Upcoming spectrum auctions in the United States in 2020 and 2021 will free up more spectrum. Specifically, this spectrum will be in the mid-band range, and quite suitable for 5G deployments. Most notably, are the forthcoming Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and C-band spectrum auctions.
CBRS – 5G Spectrum
CBRS is a 150 MHz wide broadcast band of the 3.5 GHz band. Of the total, 70 MHz of CBRS is licensed spectrum. Further, the remaining 80 MHz is for general authorized access (GAA), which is unlicensed. The CBRS auction for the licensed portion of the spectrum is anticipated to occur in July 2020.
CBRS spectrum will be deployed on both 4G and 5G networks, using small cell infrastructure. Critically, small cells are a much more efficient and low-cost deployment model. The 80 MHz unlicensed portion of the CBRS band is the kind of technology that can be used inside buildings at very low cost, in order to service a specific need.
American Tower’s Role in CBRS, a New 5G Spectrum
American Tower is using CBRS spectrum for indoor connectivity, to create converged 5G networks. By creating targeted, neutral-host solutions, CBRS makes economic sense in a much broader array of venues than traditional Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS). In turn, this drastically increases the total addressable market of CBRS.
American Tower has been part of the CBRS Alliance industry organization for many years. Additionally, the company has several CBRS-based deployments throughout the country. As demand for better, faster, and more secure network connectivity continues to accelerate in apartment buildings, class-A office space and other commercial real estate, American Tower is using its solutions to satisfy that demand. Specifically, the company is scaling its CBRS-based neutral-host systems for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), and private network purposes.
C-band – 5G Spectrum
The Federal Communications Commission is working to free-up the C-band for mobile use. Specifically, the FCC has proposed the C-band auction would start in December 2020 (concluding in 2021) for 280 MHz from the range of 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum.
However, the C-band spectrum is still in the process of being cleared from satellite use first. Thus, it is a few years away from being made available for terrestrial use. C-band is another key spectrum band which will be used to help satisfy the growth of mobile data consumption in the U.S. Inevitably, carriers will use American Tower’s digital infrastructure to deploy this new 5G spectrum.