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Mideast and Africa to focus on C-band and 2.6GHz while Europe on C-band spectrums for 5G network

Nokia CTO Aji Ed
(Image credit: Future)

The C-band (3.4GHz to 3.8GHz) and 2.6GHz frequencies will be widely used by the telecom operators in the Middle East, Africa and Europe for 5G networks, Nokia’s regional CTO said.

“In the US, it started with the millimetre wave (between 24GHz and 40GHz) but in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, it is the C-band and 2.6GHz frequencies that give wider coverage and indoor coverage and it is better in the C-band when compared to mmwave,” Aji Ed, CTO at Nokia Middle East and Africa, told TechRadar Middle East.

Nokia has 48 5G commercial contracts globally and 12 of these agreements are with operators having commercial operations.

In the Middle East, Nokia is live with Zain in Saudi Arabia, which launched the Middle East’s largest 5G networks with over 2,000 5G base stations, STC in Saudi Arabia and du in the UAE.

With the mmwave, he said the advantage is it has much more spectrum than in the C-band.

“An operator can get up to 400MHz in the mmwave compared to 200MHz in the C-band but the pitfall is that the coverage will be very limited, up to 100 metres. With no obstruction, coverage of mmwave can go up to 400 metres,” he said.

With the C-band, on average, he said that it can go up to 1.5Kms but obstructions such as tall buildings, the coverage of C-band can go up to 500 metres.

When asked whether mmwave is critical for 5G, he said that it all depends on the use cases.

Hottest topic of discussion

“C-band can provide a good amount of spectrum for 5G when compared to 4G LTE but when you look at specific scenarios in hotspots, such as stadiums and big events, where much higher throughput or uploads is needed in a limited coverage area, then mmwave will be much needed,” Ed said.

New frequency bands for 5G deployment will be the hottest topic of discussion when ITU (International Telecommunications Union) members meet at the World Radio Communication Conference (WRC) 2019 in Egypt.

The WRC takes place between October 28 to November 22 and is organised by the ITU to review and revise radio regulations.

Many operators across the globe are beaming 5G over the existing 4G infrastructure as the final frequency for 5G is not yet fixed. Non-standalone means beaming 5G over the existing 4G infrastructure and standalone means beaming 5G over a dedicated spectrum.

Telecommunications Regulations Authority (TRA) of the UAE has allocated the C-band (where satellite operators also use these frequencies) for 5G deployment in the UAE.

Tareq Al Awadi, executive director for spectrum management at the TRA and chairman of Arab Spectrum Management Group, had told TechRadar Middle East recently that much of the focus at ITU will be on the C-band, apart from the mmwave.

Some countries in the Arab World have issues with 3.4GHz and 3.8GHz while some countries have already started at 700MHz for lower bandwidth and some countries, including the Arab countries, are also interested in the L band (1-2GHz).

Telecom operators in the UAE - Etisalat and du – work 5G in the C-band and 2.6GHz.

Ed said that mmwave is not available to be rolled out in the region and the Arab countries are not going to focus on it right now but in future, yes.