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Ofcom UK to Free 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz Radio Spectrum for 5G Mobile by 2022

Thursday, October 26th, 2017 (12:01 pm) - Score 2,085
5g mobile wireless mast tower uk

Ofcom has today started their formal process for making the 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz radio spectrum band available for use by future 5G based Mobile and Mobile Broadband technologies in the United Kingdom, although Mobile Network Operators (MNO) won’t be able to use it nationwide until 2022.

Generally it’s envisaged that the 700MHz band will prove useful for cheaply delivering wide 5G coverage in rural areas, albeit at much slower speeds. After that the bands around 3.4-3.8GHz will focus on urban areas (limited range will confine their use to areas of high demand) and of course the very high frequencies above 24GHz (millimetre Wave) should support “very large bandwidths, providing ultra-high capacity and very low latency” (i.e. fixed wireless links to homes or businesses etc.).

5g_spectrum_use_in_the_uk

However so far Often has only reached the auction stage with the 3.4GHz band and that’s currently being delayed by opposing legal challenges from EE and Three UK (here). In the meantime they’ve continued their work to identify how much of the 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz band could in the future be freed up to help support 5G services.

This band has been identified by the United Kingdom and EU as the primary band for the rollout of 5G services, due to the large amount of spectrum available and its propagation characteristics,” said Ofcom.

At present the aforementioned band is already used for fixed links (26 in total and two of which will expire on 28th November 2019 – Arqiva has some of these), fixed Satellite services (to receive Space-to-Earth transmissions) and wireless broadband (provided by UK Broadband Ltd. who are now owned by Three UK / H3G).

We note that UK Broadband owns an 84MHz block in the band (3605MHz to 3689MHz), which they use for their LTE (4G) networks around London, Reading and Wiltshire. Given recent legal challenges there has been some interest in whether or not Ofcom would allow UKB to deploy 5G in this band, but the regulator intends to address that in a future / separate consultation.

Otherwise Ofcom states that a 116MHz slice of frequency in the band could still be repurposed for 5G and so they’ve today started the formal process to “remove current authorisations for fixed links and vary licences and grants of recognised spectrum access for satellite earth stations.”

Ofcom said they “intend to deliver the award of the remaining 116MHz being made available” in the 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz band during 2019 (a further consultation on the auction for this will occur next year). The effect of this approach would be to enable future mobile services in the 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz band to be deployed in many areas from around 2020, but “not necessarily nationwide” before 2022.

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