A new auction for enormously valuable mid-band spectrum and a rollback of availability for a different piece of it illustrates the uneven progress of 5G rollouts in the U.S. and represents a challenge for enterprises looking to take advantage of 5G technology.\n\n5G resources\n\nWhat is 5G? Fast wireless technology for enterprises and phones\nHow 5G frequency affects range and speed\nPrivate 5G can solve some problems that Wi-Fi can\u2019t\nPrivate 5G keeps Whirlpool driverless vehicles rolling\n5G can make for cost-effective private backhaul\nCBRS can bring private 5G to enterprises\n\n\nThe mid-band is valuable because it\u2019s in a \u201cGoldilocks\u201d zone of the wireless spectrum\u2014its frequencies are high enough to support higher throughput, while also being low enough to propagate effectively across relatively large areas.\nThe major wireless network providers are desperate to acquire as much of it as they can, to deploy 5G as widely as possible. While there\u2019s plenty of spectrum available in the millimeter-wave range above 30GHz, those frequencies don\u2019t travel as far, meaning that orders of magnitude more base stations would be required to cover a given area.\nThe problem for carriers is that large parts of the mid-band aren\u2019t available at auction yet, although the FCC has been auctioning off other important parts of the airwaves specifically to speed 5G deployment.\nThe latestmidrange auction , which began Oct. 5, will see 100MHz of spectrum in the 3.45GHz-to-3.55GHz range auctioned off in 10MHz blocks within FCC designated geographical regions known as Partial Economic Areas, which vary widely in size and population\n\u201cThere\u2019s no question that the last several auctions that the FCC has run have all been centered on 5G,\u201d said Dan Hays, principal at PwC. The largest was the C-band auction\u00a0 in the 3.7GHz range, which took in more than $81 billion.\n\u201c[The C-band auction] completely blew out everyone\u2019s expectations for what they might be able to raise, and there are high hopes for this auction as well, but the industry is really crying for more mid-band spectrum to accelerate the rollout,\u201d said Hays.\nYet it\u2019s not full speed ahead for the FCC. Earlier this month it rescinded a rule made under the previous administration that would have opened 50MHz in the 4.9GHz band for commercial auction and use. That band is currently designated for use by public safety, and municipalities objected to the earlier decision to open it to shared use. The objections centered on concerns that sharing the spectrum would cause interference with networks used by police and fire departments, and that could delay response times.\n\u201cMid-band is tough because it\u2019s already crowded,\u201d said Forrester research director Glenn O\u2019Donnell. \u201cWith modern radios and data equipment it\u2019s possible to avoid interference, so in a sense [former FCC Chairman] Ajit Pai\u2019s administration was correct that you can avoid the issues that are being discussed, but having a dedicated space for public safety, there\u2019s some logic to that as well.\u201d\nAll this adds up to a scenario where big wireless providers are eager to build out their 5G networks. The big three\u2014AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless\u2014have been marketing their 5G networks widely,nand enterprises are that much more interested in trying it out, according to Hays.\n\u201cA lot of enterprises are starting to think about the art of the possible with 5G use cases,\u201d he said. \u201cSo just getting a handle on what is possible is a really important first step, and that\u2019s where we see a lot of enterprises out there.\u201d\nThat said, once businesses start to experiment with 5G, they butt up against the reality of 5G networks in the US: it\u2019s spotty and not that widely available. Nor is it merely a question of putting up a sufficient number of new base stations, Hays added. Features are lagging. Network slicing\u2014dynamically carving a piece of spectrum into multiple virtual networks to meet varying customer demand\u2014and 5G\u2019s much-vaunted low latency have yet to make their way into most commercial offerings.\n\u201cWe don\u2019t see a lot of commercial offers of network slicing just yet, [and] we don\u2019t see anyone out there saying, \u201cHey, we can offer you truly low-latency 5G end-to-end solutions for a premium price,\u2019\u201d he said.