The Spectrum Handbook 2018

The Spectrum Handbook 2018 Summit Ridge Group, LLC

393 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2018 Last revised: 18 Jan 2019

See all articles by J. Armand Musey

J. Armand Musey

Summit Ridge Group, LLC

Barlow Keener

Summit Ridge Group, LLC

Date Written: October 1, 2018


This updated Handbook has three objectives:

1) to serve as a primer for explaining the complex issues around the use of electromagnetic spectrum;

2) to analyze, from both an economic and a legal perspective, the regulatory processes being considered or underway to reallocate or change the use of spectrum bands; and

3) to be a reference source for industry professionals.

Part I of the Handbook provides an overview of the spectrum and the regulatory process. Part II provides an in-depth overview of various spectrum bands, discussing their range, location, and physical properties and how these impact their ability to be used. Part III explains the various Regulatory Dynamics. Part IV provides a comparative international overview. Part V is an overview of valuation methods and trends. An analysis of the current allocation of these spectrum bands in the United States follows. Throughout the Handbook, we provide links in the footnotes to sources for additional information. From a macro-perspective, regulators worldwide are in the middle of a spectrum reallocation, primarily for 5G, that is unprecedented in its size and speed. This is occurring at a range of spectrum bands.

The most noticeable change since our 2013 Handbook is the clear trend towards increased demand for higher frequencies, most notably, millimeter wave spectrum in the U.S. In addition, the unlicensed spectrum and spectrum sharing movements have graduated from a niche into the mainstream. Various forms of spectrum sharing are now supported by major companies such as Google and Microsoft. In a sense, they may be a portend a long-term upheaval of the sector by Silicon Valley players; however, mobile operators are ahead in deployed infrastructure. In addition, regulatory bodies, including the FCC, repurposed and reallocated spectrum from 2012 to 2018 for both licensed and unlicensed use. This has dramatically increased the availability of spectrum, including AWS-3, AWS-4, H-Block, 600 MHz incentive auction, and others. And the process is continuing. The 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS, spectrum sharing proceeding, which will begin operating by the end of 2018 will add 150 MHz of new mid-band service for mobile and fixed use. The 2018 FCC proceeding to study proposals for satellite vendors to repurpose spectrum from 3.7-4.2 MHz will in the near future add up to another 500 MHz to the 150 MHz at 3.5 GHz. The 24 GHz and 28 GHz auctions are expected at yearend 2018.

Software-defined networking technology has also increased the flexibility of communication networks in all areas from satellite to terrestrial wireless to submarine cables. Moreover, new technologies to increase spectrum efficiency, such as MIMO, spectrum sharing, small cell densification, beamforming antennas and spectrum aggregation (licensed and unlicensed) have evolved at unexpectedly rapid rates. As a result, not only has spectrum availability increased, but the historical near linear relationship between bandwidth demand and needed capacity has been broken. This makes evaluating carriers’ need for spectrum an increasingly difficult exercise.

Keywords: FCC, spectrum, wireless, broadband, frequency, communications

JEL Classification: K23

Suggested Citation

Musey, J. Armand and Keener, E. Barlow, The Spectrum Handbook 2018 (October 1, 2018). The Spectrum Handbook 2018 Summit Ridge Group, LLC , Available at SSRN:

J. Armand Musey (Contact Author)

Summit Ridge Group, LLC ( email )

49 West 38th Street
12th Floor
New York, NY 10018
United States
+1.212.433.4800 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://

E. Barlow Keener

Summit Ridge Group, LLC ( email )

535 Fifth Avenue, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10017
United States


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