C-band spectrum is widely used in Europe for 5G services but has yet to be made available to operators in the US

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, has said that he favours an open auction for spectrum in the 3.7 – 4.2GHz band, ruling out a private sale by the group of satellite operators who currently own licences for the spectrum.  

Unlike operators in Europe, US operators have launched their initial 5G services using a mix of low band and mmWave spectrum. The so called C-band spectrum, favoured by operators in Europe for its blend of high speeds and comparatively long range propagation, is currently used by satellite operators in the US.

A group of satellite operators who currently hold licences for C-band spectrum in the US had proposed selling their licences directly to mobile network operators. However, Pai said that he favoured a public auction rather than a private sale to make 200MHz of C-band spectrum available for commercial 5G use.

“I’m confident they’ll quickly conduct a public auction that will give everyone a fair chance to compete for this 5G spectrum, while preserving availability of the upper 200 MHz of the band for continued delivery of programming,” Pai said on Twitter.

The US recently topped the charts for maximum 5G download speeds but will be keen to ramp up its network availability and reliability, both of which should be boosted by the availability of C-band spectrum.