Pressure mounts on European spectrum allocation

Now that 5G is within reach the urgency to make enough spectrum available is increasing significantly, especially in Europe.

Everyone seems to be doing a pretty decent job of R&D, collaboration, testing, etc, but you can have all the base stations, virtualized cores and whizzy devices you want and they won’t be much use without the spectrum to carry the signals. For 5G to work we need a lot more spectrum than we currently do and that requires a lot of effort across the board to pull off.

Here in the UK Ofcom has baked in the announcement it made last week concerning the six companies that will be participating in the imminent auction of 40 MHz of 2.3 GHz spectrum and 150 MHz of 3.4 GHz spectrum. The latter will be the first tranche of spectrum specifically set aside for 5G.

The usual suspects are all there: EE, Vodafone, Telefónica and Hutchison. The two left-field ones are Connexin, which has an interest in fixed wireless access, and Airspan Spectrum Holdings, which is a subsidiary of small cell specialist Airspan. EE won’t be allowed to big for the 2.3 GHz and will only be able to win a maximum of 85 GHz of the 3.4 GHz, but it’s unlikely to get close to that anyway.

Meanwhile ETNO, one of those organisations that represents European operators, is continuing to rattle the cage of the many pan-European bureaucracies to urge them to free up more spectrum more quickly.

“5G is too important for Europe to accept a compromise falling short of the original ambition,” said Lise Fuhr, ETNO Director General. “Future licences needs to deliver increased certainty with respect to the status quo and a truly effective peer review system is essential to ensure the credibility of spectrum policy.”

The specific gripe seems to be the Electronic Communications Code negotiations, which ETNO has been moaning about for a while, and are apparently still lacking urgency. ‘We ask legislators to ensure that the final text delivers far more ambition, more certainty, less complexity and a credible governance system,’ pleads the ETNO announcement.

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