Large blocks of 3.4-3.8 GHz should be made available by 2020, according to the latest recommendations from the EU’s Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG). The news comes as the UK’s 5G spectrum auction edges closer.
RSPG says that availability of this primary 5G band will be fundamental to 5G’s success in Europe. The RSPG’s second opinion document, following the first released in November 2016, urges EU member states to look at appropriate ways to defragment this band in time for releasing large blocks of spectrum by 2020.
The report also urges policy-makers to make a “sufficiently large portion” (e.g. 1 GHz) of the 26 GHz band available by the same date.
The two bands were highlighted as 'pioneer' bands for 5G in the RSPG’s first opinion document, alongside the 700 MHz band, which is currently being allocated around the EU.
As part of the Communications Code, currently being finalised, the European Commission is looking to make the release of the 3.4-3.8 GHz and 26 GHz bands by a certain date a legal requirement for all EU states.Though of course this may or may not apply to the UK depending on whether Brexit has completed by then.
5G spectrum auction
Three called for Ofcom to put a 30% cap on the amount of spectrum any network could hold, rather than the 37% limit that’s currently in place. The network argued that this was essential to a fair and competitive four-player market but the courts disagreed, and the Court of Appeal decision last week upheld this.
Ofcom hasn’t given exact dates for when the UK 5G spectrum auction will begin or end, but it is expected to start sooner rather than later now that roadblocks have been cleared. The results could have a significant impact on the mobile landscape in the UK. A total of 40MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band and 150MHz in the 3.4MHz band is being auctioned off, increasing the total availability of spectrum by almost a third.
That will get the UK a lot closer to the level of spectrum likely to be needed by 5G, but it probably won’t be enough on its own, so freeing up and auctioning more spectrum such as that in the 3.4-3.8 GHz bands would be desirable.
Another key RSPG recommendation in the new report is that member states should have flexibility in the way they authorise access to spectrum. For example, around appropriate geographical areas (e.g. national, regional, city or hyper-local, e.g. for use in a factory), and whether via individual licencing or under a general authorisation framework.