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Small UK Firms Invited to Setup Own Local Wireless Networks

Monday, December 9th, 2019 (11:51 am) - Score 2,053
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Ofcom has today begun inviting applications for their new Shared Spectrum Licences, which enables small businesses to create their own local wireless networks in radio spectrum bands (ranging from 1.8GHz to 26GHz) that could previously only be used by national mobile and broadband providers.

The change has been made possible by the regulator’s new spectrum sharing framework (here) and could pave the way for lots of smaller mobile and fixed wireless broadband networks to be created in order to deliver local coverage, such as for industrial, farming or residential connectivity etc. The regulator is managing and coordinating access to these bands on a per location, “first come, first served basis“.

The shared access licences are currently available in four spectrum bands which support mobile technology – 1800MHz, 2300MHz, 3800 – 4200MHz and 24.25 – 26.5GHz; the latter is only available for indoor low power licences.

Ofcom currently offers two types of Shared Access Licence (distinguished primarily by permitted power levels) to cater for different types of use, which we’ve summarised below.

New Shared Access Licences

• Low power licence (per area licence): This will allow users to deploy the required number of base stations in a circular area with a 50-metre radius without further authorisation from Ofcom. For large sites, people can apply for multiple licence areas to achieve the required coverage area.

• Medium power licence (per base station licence): Given the higher transmit power and larger potential interference area, this licence will be issued on a per base station basis and, generally, for deployments in rural areas only, where they are unlikely to constrain low power users.

Ofcom will charge an annual licence fee for both the low power licence (charged on a per area basis) and medium power licence (charged on a per base station basis). In practice this works out as £80 +vat in the 1800MHz and 2300MHz bands, and £80 per 10MHz in the 3.8 – 4.2 GHz band. Suffice to say that if you wanted a nice big 100MHz block then that would cost £800 per year.

For the 26GHz band, the annual licence fee is £320 and does not vary by bandwidth. Meanwhile short-term licences of less than one year will be priced on a pro-rata basis, with a minimum cost of £32 per licence.

Separately, Ofcom also announced today that they’ve worked with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to identify 168MHz of spectrum between 7.9GHz and 8.4GHz, which is not being used in a variety of locations and could help meet demand for fixed wireless services. As a result, organisations can now also apply for a fixed link licence in the 8GHz band via Ofcom’s point-to-point fixed link licence application form (only available in certain areas).

So far the only company that we know of to have made use of this system is StrattoOpencell, which worked with Vodafone to offer high-speed data via the 2.6GHz band in “remote areas without fibre connectivity” (here). Many more are expected to follow and mobile operators will no doubt be keeping a close eye on how this affects them (so long as it doesn’t cause them interference or serve to drive-up the price of spectrum in future 5G auctions then they’ll probably be happy).

Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all says:

    The original notion was to acknowledge the customers contribution of power, the cost of a router/wireless device and the bandwidth on a broadband connection/bandwidth to carry the calls. It was also the notion that in a customers own space it would ‘own’ any of the radio signals being generated.

    This does not quite get there preserving the oligopoly for the purposes of preserving the spectrum fees. Another iteration will be required. It would be good to understand the StratoOpencell gateway and the services that gateway offers where the customers broadband connections carry the call.

  2. Avatar David Burns says:

    If anyone needs help, please consider participating in the UK Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (UKWISPA). We help the fixed wireless industry operate safely, effectively and profitably.

    1. Avatar NGA for all says:

      What’s happened the small cell forum? I can appreciate a profitable niche solving mobile not spots and partial not spots, but that involves customers paying again for something they think they have already paid, perhaps twice if we include the fixed broadband connection.

      I think the need is much greater and involves getting licensed spectrum on every router and the necessary gateways to all networks so convergence can occur! Feel free to disagree. It should also feature as an option in POTS switch off.

  3. Avatar NGA for all says:

    On reflection I would go further and suggest this sort of Ofcom thinking will simultaneously kill small cells/router and the eco-system needed to support 5G where 1m radios per sq km in urban(most indoors) will be needed to co-exist while supporting some of the services being spoken of.

    The lessons from 3G and 4G is that the availability of wifi (hosted on fixed fines) has almost accidentally met the demand for bandwidth that the licensing of 3G and 4G has prevented.

  4. Avatar Mark Steele says:

    5G IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY – SMALL BUSINESSES AND SHAREHOLDERS WILL BE BANKRUPTED AND THEIR HOMES TAKEN FROM THEM FOR INSTALLING THIS UNINSURABLE WEAPON SYSTEM.

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