22 May 2024
by Tales Gaspar

Ofcom releases vision for sharing the Upper 6GHz band

  • Ofcom published today a vision compiling contributions to its consultation on hybrid sharing between mobile and Wi-Fi in the Upper 6 GHz band.  

  • The objective is to enable coexistence adapting to MNOs arguments requesting for more spectrum access for locations with high density of users and Wi-Fi’s claims of improved service for indoor demand. 

  • With a focus on customer experience, seamless integration between services is another objective of the regulator for enhanced connectivity.    

Specifics of the hybrid sharing framework 

In this vision, Ofcom has set out factors to assess promising deployment scenarios for hybrid sharing. It includes expectations around innovative mechanisms that maximize consumer benefits, outlining five factors to consider for a hybrid sharing implementation plan, as follows: 

  • The highest consumer benefits from effectively sharing spectrum between mobile and Wi-Fi.  

  • Successful mobile and Wi-Fi sharing needs innovation, investment, and international harmonization to ensure spectrum availability and attract manufacturers and users.  

  • The framework should allow existing users to continue where possible, as their removal would be costly and time-consuming.  

  • Early implementation of coexistence measures is desirable, provided it avoids future legacy issues. 

  • While international harmonization is crucial, the framework should be flexible enough to accommodate national or local priorities. 

Though each might face some loss due to potential clashes, a well-designed sharing framework can maximize benefits from both. The framework must balance mobile needs for macro sites with Wi-Fi's preference for existing standards. In high-demand areas, changes might be needed if they provide greater overall benefits, with careful management of the impact on existing users. 

Potential techniques for split use of spectrum 

Exploring the specific advantages of the Upper 6 GHz to consumers, Ofcom envisions potential service isolation techniques between indoor delivery Wi-Fi and outdoor delivery of mobile services, reducing the risk of interference.  

In a variable spectrum split, the Upper 6 GHz would be separated into two priority portions. Within the respective priority portions, Wi-Fi and mobile would be able to deploy services freely. It would also allow one service to use the other priority band in channels and places that are not being used.  

For instance, Wi-Fi would be able to launch services in mobile’s priority band provided that it has techniques in place to avoid interference with mobile services and that can detect once the service is deployed by the priority user. That can entail emitting a specific signal for the other technology to easily sense. 

This approach fits the factors listed above as both services can use the band, taking advantage of partial deployments. Establishing priority portions creates certainty for both technology providers, although coexistence management techniques require some improvement. It also allows for a phased approach to the use of the band and enables local priorities to be reflected in the use of the spectrum.  

On the other hand, ensuring equitable access in the same geographical area can rely on simple mechanisms to manage overlap between services. Combined with mobile base station power adjustment, overlap with Wi-Fi can be avoided by determining the use of the Upper 6 GHz by mobile only to increase service capacity for outdoor use and to reduce the load to other mobile bands – namely the 3 GHz band. Simpler hybrid sharing mechanisms can have lower trade-offs, considering the availability of other bands for mobile indoor users, that allow the use of the Upper 6 GHz band for more capacity outdoor mobile services and increased benefits for Wi-Fi indoors.  

This approach would extend availability of spectrum resources for Wi-Fi and free up bands for mobile bands in hard-to-reach locations. It would also create positive incentives for deployment, without adding constraints on mobile use, granting more choice to national and local requirements. Nonetheless, it depends on developing technologies that prevent legacy issues or that can overcome future problems. 

Regional discussions and spectrum sandboxes 

The CEPT work in ECC PT1 is set to produce an ECC Report in early 2025, aiming to inform harmonized technical approaches and coexistence mechanisms, encouraging the development of shared-native equipment. The European Commission is considering a mandate for CEPT to study the shared use of the Upper 6 GHz band by RLAN and mobile broadband in the EU, with reports expected after the ECC Report due to a broader scope. 

The UK Government is funding spectrum sharing sandboxes from April 2024 to March 2025 to explore and test hybrid mobile and Wi-Fi spectrum use, including simulations and economic assessments. The insights from these trials will inform the UK's approach to shared use of the band. A consultation will precede any decisions on the Upper 6 GHz band, with further details to be published in 2025. 



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Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy, techUK

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Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy, techUK

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Programme Manager, UK SPF and Satellite, techUK

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Tales Gaspar

Programme Manager for UK SPF and Satellite, techUK