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Norway sells spectrum for private 5G

Norway is looking to give a boost to the private 5G sector, offering up a swathe of spectrum between 3.8 GHz and 4.2 GHz to industrial users.

The Norwegian Communications Authority (Nkom) said that following pilots in the band last year, it is now opening up the licensing process. Interested parties can apply for licences with bandwidths of up to 80 MHz for a duration of up to 10 years to enable them to roll out private 5G networks.

There is no upfront licence fee mentioned in the regulator’s documentation, but ongoing costs are related to the amount of spectrum secured and the power level of the base stations being used. Annual fees start at around US$20 for a 20 MHz slot at low power, so the barrier to entry is pretty low.

While this could be good news for certain verticals, private 5G networks can often be an emotive subject for operators, who are naturally keen to capture the potentially lucrative enterprise 5G market. The Norwegian operators have not been particularly vocal on the subject, but their peers elsewhere have made a fair amount of noise. In India, for example, the mobile operators are deeply unhappy about private 5G rules that they believe threatens their bottom line.

It’s difficult to read between the lines on Nkom’s statement on the matter.

“As the national spectrum regulator in Norway, Nkom has since 2019 worked on establishing options for industry and verticals to get access to 5G. With the release of 3.8-4.2 GHz to local NPN [non-public networks], Nkom wants to supplement the national mobile network operator (MNO) offerings,” it said.

Supplement, eh?

It’s worth noting that incumbent Telenor has been working on the private 5G opportunity for some time. For example, the new public cloud deal it signed with AWS a year ago includes work on private networks, both in its home market and at international operations.

So it’s not as though the Norwegian mobile network operators – the three of them plus broadband and TV provider Altibox having paid just under half a billion dollars for 2.6 GHz and 3.6 GHz frequencies at last year’s 5G auction – are being sidelined. This looks like a straightforward push towards private 5G from the regulator.

As Nkom puts it: “The established regulation in 3.8-4.2 GHz lowers the barriers to get the Norwegian industry into exploring what 5G can offer in solving their wireless communication needs.” The authority is basing its regulation of the band on work done by Ofcom four years ago, incidentally.

Private 5G could certainly do with a bit of a push.

According to the latest data from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), there are at least 955 organisations deploying LTE or 5G private mobile networks in 72 countries worldwide, but 4G still dominates, with 5G accounting for just over 40 percent of the total. Meanwhile, last summer ABI Research predicted that the manufacturing and industrial sector is on course to reach 49 million private 5G connections by the end of the decade, but cautioned that a lack of devices could hamper uptake.

Governments opening up spectrum at affordable prices can only help.

 

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