For those of us who have the dubious pleasure of attending spectrum management conferences and workshops, the well-worn mantra over the last few years that “nobody really knows what 5G will look like” had been wearing a little thin. We knew that 5G would need to meet explosive increases in consumer demand and would deliver low latency to support machine to machine applications. We also knew that it would require lots of new spectrum coupled with very significant investments in infrastructure to deliver these new and innovative services.
It was clear that the dual objectives of meeting huge levels of data demand while ensuring that coverage is ubiquitous would be at the heart of 5G.
But beyond that, the actual reality of what 5G would look like had been unclear – in contrast with more definable progression from, say, 3G to 4G.
So it is welcome that flesh is finally being put on the 5G bone. On 24 February, Arqiva and Samsung announced UK trials to deliver 5G broadband services to homes and businesses through fixed wireless access (FWA) technology. This initiative utilises the joint expertise of Arqiva as the UK’s leading media infrastructure provider and Samsung as a global leader in broadband technology innovation.
Using 5G “pre-standards”, the FWA trial will explore the possibilities of ultra-fast, high bandwidth connectivity via wireless technology rather than conventional wired services. We expect to realise speeds in excess of 1 Gbps and to demonstrate super low latency.
Arqiva’s existing licensed 28 GHz spectrum holdings will provide the oxygen for this technology, aligning with already emerging industry preferences and trials in the US, Japan and South Korea. Parallel to this, the EU is also promoting the 26 GHz band as a harmonised 5G solution.
These bands combined, open up possibilities of massive bandwidths in the millimetric part of the spectrum – delivering ultra-fast speeds to ever greater numbers of premises.
Delivering these speeds using fibre alone would involve huge costs. Deploying small cells to deliver connectivity wirelessly promises an alternative solution at lower costs – but without compromising on speed and capacity – and could lead the way to genuine long-term infrastructure competition in the delivery of 5G.
In terms of delivering ubiquitous 5G coverage, Arqiva also has a pivotal role in the UK. We are clearing digital terrestrial television from the 700 MHz band to enable that spectrum to become the band which will deliver wide coverage of mobile 5G services. We are confident of delivering this by the ambitious 2020 timescale set by Ofcom.
Thereafter, the challenge will fall on the mobile sector to assess how it can more efficiently use the fragmented spectrum in the 700, 800 and 900 MHz bands to deliver high speed 5G services across the entire population.
So, Arqiva’s commitment is to be at the centre of the 5G story in the UK – working closely with industry partners, government and the regulator. A vibrant digital economy will deliver enormous benefits across all industries and we are confident that we can play a role in realising this goal.
Guest blog from John Canavan, Head of Regulatory Affairs, Arqiva, for techUK's "Good to Great Connectivity for the UK" Week.