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Ofcom Refines their UK Choices for Future 5G Mobile Spectrum Bands

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 (12:10 pm) - Score 1,478
wireless microwave link uk

The UK telecoms regulator has today posted an update on their quest to identify the best radio spectrum bands for use with future 5G based Mobile Broadband technology, which alongside the EU appears to have short-listed 700MHz, 3.4-3.8GHz and the higher frequency 24.25-27.5GHz (26GHz band).

A number of experimental 5G demonstrations have already been conducted with bands from 800MHz and all the way up to 73GHz, although we note that most have tended to harness either spectrum in the 3GHz band or 28GHz. Meanwhile we note that Ofcom is already in the process of releasing spectrum in the 3.4-3.8GHz bands (here) and 700MHz (here) for mobile communications.

Most recently the regulator has also given its “full support” to the Radio Spectrum Policy Group’s (RSPG) identification of 26GHz as a “pioneer band” for 5G in Europe. “We have started a programme of work to look at how the 26 GHz band can be made available for 5G in the UK, taking into account existing users and their requirements, and intend to publish a consultation on this shortly,” said today’s update.

Ofcom’s 5G Update Statement

Ofcom is playing a leading role internationally in the identification of spectrum bands for 5G having acknowledged the need for different spectrum bands with different characteristics to meet the requirements of future 5G services and networks. We have worked closely with other European spectrum regulators to identify bands that have the potential to be globally harmonised through our work in both the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG)1 and the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT).2 This has resulted in the identification of three bands to enable 5G in Europe:

• Low bandwidth spectrum at 700 MHz;

• 3.4-3.8 GHz, which has the potential to allow wider bandwidths; and

• 24.25-27.5 GHz (the 26 GHz band), for ultra-dense very high capacity networks

The rationale behind all this is that the 700MHz band is likely to prove useful for cheaply delivering wide 5G coverage in rural areas, albeit at much slower speeds. Meanwhile the very high frequencies above 24GHz (e.g. millimetre Wave) will support “very large bandwidths, providing ultra-high capacity and very low latency“, although their limited range will confine their use to areas of high demand (i.e. cities).

5g_spectrum_use_in_the_uk

On the subject of 26GHz, Ofcom intends to launch a consultation on this band during the first half of 2017. At present the band is used by around 3,000 fixed links (24.25-26.5GHz) and meanwhile the Ministry of Defence (MOD) make use of 26.5-27.5 GHz, although the MOD has confirmed that there is “scope for 5G to be deployed in this band in the UK.

We should point out that various other bands are still being studied for use with 5G services including 4.25-27.5 GHz, 31.8-33.4 GHz, 37-40.5 GHz, 40.5-42.5 GHz, 42.5-43.5 GHz, 45.5-47 GHz, 47-47.2 GHz, 47.2-50.2 GHz, 50.4-52.6 GHz, 66-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz. However a final decision on all of those might not be taken until the World Radiocommunications Conference 2019.

Meanwhile Ofcom expects the first wave of commercial products to be available in the UK market sometime in 2020, with initial pre-commercial deployments being expected to start from 2018. Some other countries could start their pre-commercial deployments this year, although that is risky because the final specification and standards won’t be set in stone until 2018.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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