15 Aug 2022

Event round-up: Future mmWave demand

Over 115 delegates attended the UK Spectrum Policy Forum Cluster 1 workshop on mmWave demand in late July. The hybrid workshop explored in depth the various sectors and applications that demand the use of mmWave spectrum.

What are some of the specific applications that utilise mmWave bands?  Where does demand for this spectrum will come from in future? What are the most popular bands?

Here's what we learnt: 

mmWave deployment – key to 5G

As 5G adoption is growing quickly, mmWave spectrum remains a key talking point.

5G mmWave has already been deployed in the US, Japan, South Korea, and several other countries, but a recent consultation by Ofcom proposes to make the ‘large amounts of mmWave spectrum’ across 26 GHz and 40 GHz available in the UK by 2024.

Ofcom is planning to divide the 26 GHz band into high demand and low demand areas. The detailed proposal is to make citywide licences available on a first-come-first-served basis in ‘low density areas’ as well as in the lowest 850 MHz of the band in ‘high density areas’, while auctioning city-wide licences for the upper 2.4 GHz of the spectrum.

Use cases: from citywide deployments to rural applications

Ofcom’s plan was generally well received across stakeholders, who noted that 5G mmWave will be ideal to deliver high-quality services in densely populated places, where data congestion can cause networks operating on lower frequencies to struggle.

Speakers agreed that one major benefit of mmWave spectrum is that it would give people better services in crowded areas, helping to overcome slow service by enabling significant increases in network capacity, but they also envisaged that mmWave frequencies could support a range of different applications within the enterprise and industrial sectors.

Such spectrum may be used to deliver private networks across a wide range of sectors, which can enable things like factory automation in manufacturing, smart farming in agriculture and secure campus-style networks on business premises.

One of the sectors that has been benefiting from early mmWave trials in the UK, has been agri-tech. A speaker told attendees that mmWave will be critically important in rural areas as it can help revolutionise agriculture by increasing productivity and reducing environmental impact and cost. Recent trials of 26 GHz spectrum enabled ‘per plant’ analysis supported by autonomous vehicles and robots, they said.

Coexistence with satellite services

mmWave band remain a critical spectrum asset for the satellite service. In particular, “The 28 GHz is a satellite band”, said a speaker, adding that 39.5-40.5 GHz will also be utilised for future ubiquitous satellite services . It was further  noted that the satellite industry supports 5G deployment in mmwave frequencies, such as 26 GHz and 40 GHz, but urged for a measured approach in order to avoid creating uncertainty and stifling innovation & growth.

In less than two years new mmWave bands will be put to work in UK mobile networks and this will unlock some potential new use cases and, in certain areas, much needed capacity. Likewise for satellites services, mmWave bands will be needed to expand operations. This demonstrates that a balanced approach to securing access to mmWave frequencies will result in a successful outcome for the UK.

To acces the slides, please click here

Sophie James

Sophie James

Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy, techUK

Manuel R. Marti

Manuel R. Marti

Programme Manager, UK SPF and Satellite, techUK

Julia Ofori-Addo

Julia Ofori-Addo

Programme Assistant, Central Government, Digital Connectivity Forum, Comms Infrastructure, UK SPF, techUK