Maximizing Spectral Efficiency to Overcome A Spectrum Deficit in a 5G World

RF spectrum is the lifeblood of the wireless industry, but there’s a significant potential for a deficit in the amount of spectrum available for growing mobile data services.

In mid-January 2021, a big step was taken for 5G networks in the U.S. as mobile network operators (MNOs) spent over $80 billion dollars to acquire the spectrum upon which their network services will be built. But according to a model of spectral demand created by Resonant, an updated version of a model developed by the FCC (reference: “MOBILE BROADBAND: THE BENEFITS OF ADDITIONAL SPECTRUM, OCTOBER 2010” FCC Staff Technical Paper), growing demand for data services threatens to result in a situation where data demand will overwhelm the available spectrum starting in 2021 and continuing to get worse through 2025.

This analysis is based on 4G data services and doesn’t factor in growing 5G services that will require ever larger swaths of spectrum to fuel high-bandwidth applications. Given the amount of money spent on spectrum, ensuring that it is not wasted is an important consideration. In our model, we estimate that more than $1B of spectrum in the US alone could be wasted due to interference degrading spectral efficiency by as little as 1%.

There are a number of techniques and technologies available to better manage network capacity and improve on the problem by increasing spectral efficiency. Spectral efficiency is a measure of how effective the usable bandwidth, derived from a given frequency band, is consumed. Improving spectral efficiency is a function of the wireless protocol and several RF technologies including the RF filter. This whitepaper explores how to improve spectral efficiency to help MNOs meet their need for spectrum.

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