Systems & Design

Exploring The 6G Spectrum Landscape

An analysis of the spectrum potential for next-generation wireless systems.


In each generation of cellular communications, new spectrum has been key to delivering more services, more capacity, and higher data throughput to end users. 5G benefited from large contiguous bandwidths of millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum, known as frequency range 2 (FR2). And 5G benefited from the reallocation and unlocking of midband spectrum (3.4 to 4.9 GHz) with its more favorable propagation characteristics. The spectrum that will be available for 6G is unclear, but three frequency ranges are under discussion, including the upper midband (sometimes called midband or, unofficially, FR3) from 7 to 24 GHz and sub-terahertz bands from roughly 90 to 300 GHz. The third range involves maximizing spectrum below 7 GHz through refarming, new band allocation, and increased spectral efficiency.

Each of the proposed bands has benefits and drawbacks. The bands below 7 GHz provide the best coverage. But the spectrum in this range is already allocated, and getting access to additional spectrum requires moving incumbents somewhere else or refarming. Research into ways to increase spectral efficiency and make the most of what is available must continue.

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