Ofcom consults on new measures to defragment 3.4-3.8 GHz spectrum band

By Sarah Wray 19 June 2019

Ofcom 5G spectrum

UK telecom regulator Ofcom has published a consultation on revised proposals to defragment the 3.4-3.8 GHz band, ahead of the 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum auction slated for 2020.

The 3.4-3.8 GHz band is a key 5G spectrum band in Europe.  There is broad agreement that 5G will be most successful if spectrum is held in large contiguous blocks, rather than small fragmented units. If contiguous spectrum is not possible, the next best option could be for operators to hold their separate blocks of 3.4-3.8 GHz spectrum sufficiently close to each other.

Proposals

Following a previous consultation on the 700 MHz and 3.6-2.8 GHz auction, Ofcom has now published updated measures on how these airwaves can be defragmented.

Proposed measures include imposing a restriction on winners of less than 20 MHz of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum to bidding only for the top or bottom of the 3.6-3.8 GHz band in the assignment stage of the auction.

Further, Ofcom has also put forward the idea of a 'negotiation phase' at the assignment stage of the auction. This would give winners of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum the opportunity to agree the assignment of frequencies between themselves. Through the consultation, Ofcom wants to understand whether stakeholders think such negotiations would require a consensus from all parties or whether a majority would suffice.

The consultation is open now and will close on July 10. Ofcom aims to publish its final decision later this year. 

O2: “Positive step”

UK operators including Vodafone, BT/EE and O2 were among those who responded to the previous consultation. They called on Ofcom to do more to facilitate defragmentation of the 3.4-3.8 GHz band through the auction. In 02's response, it said there were considerable downsides to having fragmented spectrum across the 3.4- 3.8 GHz band.

02 has welcomed the latest consultation, saying: “We are pleased that the regulator has taken on board feedback from the industry as part of its last consultation on the auction design.  We believe this is a positive step enabling the mobile operators to secure contiguous spectrum in this key 5G band.  This move will work to ensure the UK can realise the full potential of 5G.”

About Sarah Wray

Technical Writer at 5G.co.uk

Sarah Wray is a technical writer with over 10 years' experience writing about technology, including telecoms, smart cities, data, IoT, aerospace, and more.

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