Ofcom begins mulling mmWave for the UK

UK comms regulator Ofcom, which controls the allocation of radio spectrum, is finally looking at opening up millimetre wave spectrum bands to the telecoms industry.

Ofcom has today begun consulting on plans to open mmWave spectrum across the 26 GHz and 40 GHz bands to mobile technology, including 5G. It says the spectrum, which is pitched as providing large wireless data capacity and speed over short distances, can be used to improve mobile broadband services and deliver ‘innovative new services’.

In particular, Ofcom cites areas of high traffic such as football stadiums and train stations where connections can get clogged up could benefit from the technology. Other areas that might utilise mmWave are virtual reality, factory automation, and ‘intelligent transport systems’.It is proposing to revoke fixed links licences in some areas and to make citywide and local licences available in the 26 GHz band, as well as a range of options for the 40 GHz band.  It is now seeking views from the industry on how to make the spectrum available.

Also proposed is an increase the amount of spectrum available for Short-Range Devices, including for road safety, low power Wi-Fi, and drones. It said in a statement: “Our plans also include liberalising the technical conditions for some Ultra-Wideband (UWB) devices for keyless car-entry systems. This will enable the use of a special mitigation technology called ‘trigger before transmit’, which, in turn, will make keyless entry systems more secure, and reduce the risk of opportunistic thefts, or ‘relay attacks’, where criminals intercept the key-fob signal.”

Intriguingly, the consultation document mulls three possible mechanisms for awarding licenses. Of course there’s the good, old auction, which has the added benefit of maximising the transfer of funds from the telecoms industry to the government. But also being considered are a ‘comparative selection process’, in which companies make a pitch and Ofcom picks the winner, or a ‘first come, first served process’. We know which one our money’s on.

The UK hasn’t been the quickest of the mark to start thinking about adopting mmWave. In terms of the global trend, after an initial surge in interest some question marks have begun coming into focus recently, with growth in investments in the sector slowing last year. However analyst  Dell’Oro seems to be largely chalking this up to a normalisation following two years of exponential growth, so perhaps Ofcom was wise to wait.


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