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Outlook Yet Unclear on 5G Implications for Radio

We asked Tom Hartnett; share your own thoughts

Is the FCC’s recent action on 5G notable for radio broadcasters and their equipment manufacturers?

Always on the hunt for “what’s next” and to learn how regulatory actions might affect you, I asked one interested observer, Tom Hartnett, technical director of Comrex, which has a rich history working with the problems of moving audio around.

“My understanding is the FCC voted to open some chunks of spectrum in some very high frequency ranges for 5G,” he replied. “My first reaction is that this spectrum is so high, to be useful it will require, first, very close spacing of cell sites/access points, and second, directional, line-of site antennas for any long distances, making it somewhat impractical for traditional mobile cellphone use.”

When Sprint introduced its WiMAX offering about 10 years ago, Hartnett noted, it used 2.4 GHz spectrum, as opposed to 0.7 and 1.9 GHz bands used now, and was universally panned because it couldn’t penetrate buildings. “These new 5G bands are 28 GHz and above.”

Then again, he continued, “We radio guys are used to setting up point-to-point links, so more opportunity for that is welcome. But I don’t think it’s going to be much of a boon for the ‘remotes over cellular’ business. But it’s good news is that the FCC is opening spectrum (and not dictated how it is to be used yet). Having the spectrum available is the first step toward someone innovating a way to make is useful.”

What do you think 5G might mean in our business? Email me at [email protected].