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Ofcom Sets Out UK Spectrum Strategy for the Next 10 Years

Monday, July 19th, 2021 (10:56 am) - Score 1,632
wireless internet radio spectrum frequency

Ofcom UK has today set out their future spectrum management strategy for the next ten years, which among other things aims to boost support for localised spectrum access (e.g. creating local wireless networks via 5G etc.) and promote greater sharing of existing spectrum in higher frequencies.

Radio spectrum is a finite resource and thus the UK communications and media regulator is constantly trying to make the most efficient use of it, which now and then requires them to re-examine the market and see whether improvements can be made. Such decisions can have a big impact on all sorts of different sectors, such as TV, satellite, fixed wireless links, home WiFi and mobile broadband (4G, 5G) etc.

Like many of Ofcom’s strategy documents, this one is full of generalisations and broad ambitions, while at the same time being somewhat light on specifics and timetables. Suffice to say that we didn’t manage to gleam much from its pages that couldn’t already be guessed from existing policy and approaches.

Interestingly, Ofcom also views 6G as being “outside of the timeframe associated with our current spectrum strategy” because it is not “expected to be significant until the 2030s timeframe,” which seems odd since regulators can have the biggest impact when new standards are still being formed. Elsewhere, there’s no mention of the forthcoming sunset for 2G and 3G services / bands, although admittedly that one is fairly predictable (the bands will go to 4G / 5G services).

Ofcom’s Three Focus Areas

Supporting wireless innovation:

Making it even easier for a broad range of users to access spectrum by:

➤ Making more spectrum available for innovation before its long-term future use is certain;

➤ Working to support innovation in new wireless technologies, including by influencing international standards and technical conditions so they are flexible enough to support new uses;

➤ Expanding our work to understand, assist and inform the broad range of organisations who may benefit from wireless technologies in the future.

Licensing to fit local and national services:

Supporting the growing diversity of wireless services and providers by considering further options for localised spectrum access when authorising new spectrum use. Local access can suit a range of businesses and specialised services at sites like factories, airports and remote farms, which do not need to use spectrum across the whole UK. Licences for larger areas, including national licences, can support wide coverage for public mobile services.

Promoting spectrum sharing:

Encouraging users to share access to spectrum with others. As innovation stimulates greater demand for limited spectrum resource, spectrum sharing becomes even more important. Alongside our flexible authorisation options, technology can help by providing new sharing tools and by creating the opportunity for a fresh approach to sharing in higher frequencies. We will encourage:

➤ Use of better data and more sophisticated analysis when assessing the conditions for sharing;

➤ Wireless systems to be more resilient to interference from their neighbours;

➤ An efficient balance between the level of interference protection given to one service and flexibility for others to transmit.

You can read the full strategy document here.

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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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2 Responses
  1. Buggerlugz says:

    “Interestingly, Ofcom also views 6G as being “outside of the timeframe associated with our current spectrum strategy” because it is not “expected to be significant until the 2030s timeframe,” which seems odd since regulators can have the biggest impact when new standards are still being formed.”

    I’m glad of this. It means Ofcom realise that 5G implementation has a long long way to go to become the stand alone product all the ISP’s sell it as currently (even though it most certainly doesn’t and won’t perform like they’re marketing departments would have us believe.) Reality seems to have sunk in with Ofcom finally. The hopping on “the next great thing” bandwagon needs to be stopped, if this is their first baby steps into doing that, then its a good thing.

    1. Ex Telecom Engineer says:

      My guess is that 6G wont be a replacement for 5G, but will be used to complement 5G in mass population venues, such as stadiums, shopping centres, etc. It will likely utilise frequencies at the top end of the EHF band, approaching 300Ghz, and possibly use optical frequencies at the low end of the Far Infrared Band. It will probably be line of sight, since the frequencies used wont penetrate buildings, or possibly windows. It won’t mean a change for most of the 5G infrastructure, since 6G will have significant distance limitations.

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