Ofcom Promises Enough Airwaves For 5G, Looks At 3.4 – 4.2GHz Spectrum Sharing

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Ofcom spectrum director says spectrum won’t be an issue for 5G as regulator opens consultation into C-band sharing

Ofcom has given assurances that there will be enough spectrum available for 5G networks by the time they become commercially available in 2020.

Speaking at a Westminster eForum in London, Philip Marnick, director of Ofcom’s spectrum policy group, said the regulator had to consider the demands from a wide range of spectrum users, including broadcast, satellite and special events, but was adamant that that the mobile industry would have more than enough bandwidth.

Read More: What is 5G?

5G preparations

5G - Shutterstock © glossyplastic“I have every intention of making sure the UK has the spectrum it needs for 5G,” he declared. “When 5G arrives, the UK will have the spectrum assets to make that work.”

Ofcom will sell 190MHz of frequencies in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands this year and has identified ’25 times’ the amount of spectrum currently used for mobile to support growing demand for 4G and for future services like the Internet of Things (IoT).

The regulation represented the UK at the UN-affiliated International Telecommunications Union (ITU) WRC-15 conference last year, where one of the agenda items was the provision of spectrum for 5G services.

Band Hero

“It was and is the UK’s position to try and achieve global harmonisation for 5G,” added Marnick, who thinks there might be as much as 32GHz in bands that aren’t really used.

The European Union has identified the 700MHz band currently used in many countries for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services as suitable for 5G and wants member states to release them for mobile broadband by 2020 – something Ofcom is already doing.

Of course the reallocation of bands can be controversial and debate about which industry requires spectrum the most is perpetual.

“I live in a practical world,” said Marnick. “At the end of the day you have to make decisions to make things happen. Most of the decisions we make are based on a cost-benefit analysis. It’s about balancing needs.”

Spectrum sharing

Spectrum sharing is being touted as a way of making the most of a finite resource. Ofcom has just initiated a consultation for the development of a spectrum sharing framework, starting with 3.8 – 4.2GHz in the C-Band, which is used for satellite broadband, fixed links and fixed wireless broadband services. Marnick said these frequencies had been chosen first because of the multiple applications.

“We chose this spectrum because it has good propagation characteristics for a number of services,” he explained. “We think it is a useful, stable band.

“We will have a framework in place. That doesn’t mean everyone’s request will be granted but it does mean we can look at it. For us, it’s about the optimum use of spectrum.

“We are in a world where spectrum sharing is important and 5G is the next big thing in mobile. But we must make sure that all industries have the spectrum they need to work and not favour one of the other.”

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