Ofcom recently published confirmation of their intention to expand spectrum access for mobile services. techUK's Communications Infrastructure Council will respond to the consultation on Ofcom's proposed approach on Improving consumer access to mobile services at 3.6 GHz to 3.8 GHz.
In the October 2016 consultation Ofcom proposed choosing between 2 extreme options:
- Protecting current users, with mobile deployed on a non-interference basis around incumbents; or
- Removing fixed links and ignoring current satellite use for future spectrum management purposes.
In our response, techUK argued for a middle ground where mobile operators would be required to coordinate their deployments (which we expected to be overwhelmingly micro cells) in 3.6-3.8 GHz with incumbents, which we would expect to provide limited constraint on 5G deployment for several years from bringing the spectrum into use for mobile. Where mobile operators believe their planned deployment may be constrained by incumbent use, they would be free to contribute towards the cost of the incumbents’ mitigation where necessary to optimise their deployment, with Ofcom providing backstop regulation to ensure that incumbents don’t abuse their position in respect of the mitigation demanded of new mobile operators.
In their recent statement, Ofcom has decided to adopt their option (b) above, subject to “appropriate” notice periods (where Ofcom proposes that the new arrangements come into effect on 1 June 2020), but Ofcom will consider “localised restrictions” in mobile licences, restricting base stations near to earth stations, provided there were no “material impact” on mobile deployment.
Ofcom proposes to auction 3.6 – 3.8 GHz, in a combined award with 700 MHz, sometime in 2019.
One factor in this decision is an updating of the internal modelling referenced in the October 2016 consultation, which suggested that large-scale deployment of macro cells could significantly impact satellite earth stations and fixed links over a considerable distance, making coordination highly challenging. Additionally Ofcom’s believes that satellite and fixed link users could migrate their services to “alternative frequencies and technologies”. Ofcom intends to conduct further technical analysis on coexistence issues.
Ofcom is now consulting on its proposed approach to incumbents and its assessment of costs and benefits. techUK's Communications Infrastructure Council will respond to this consultation.
The closing date for responses is 22 September.