Tuesday, 17 July 2018

INCA: Ofcom must consider spectrum sharing before 5G rollout

By Chris Kelly, Total Telecom
Tuesday 26 June 18

A new report, commissioned by INCA, suggests that spectrum sharing would allow for more comprehensive provision of fixed wireless access broadband in Britain's hard to reach communities

The UK's telecoms regulator Ofcom should radically re-evaluate the way it allocates spectrum, or risk inhibiting the rollout of 5G in the UK, according to the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA). Ofcom currently sells spectrum to network operators on an exclusive basis, meaning that winning bidders have the right to sit on any unused spectrum that they own and are under no obligation to use it…

The UK's telecoms regulator Ofcom should radically re-evaluate the way it allocates spectrum, or risk inhibiting the rollout of 5G in the UK, according to the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA).

Ofcom currently sells spectrum to network operators on an exclusive basis, meaning that winning bidders have the right to sit on any unused spectrum that they own and are under no obligation to use it. INCA's CEO Malcolm Corbett believes that by advocating a shared spectrum initiative, Ofcom could significantly streamline the 5G rollout process.

“The way spectrum is currently managed means that large parts of the UK won’t get access to services promised by the big operators who tend to be the winners in the national spectrum auctions,” said Corbett.

“This means much of the spectrum is likely to sit unused when it could be used to connect entire communities in rural and hard-to-reach locations.”

Ofcom is due to auction spectrum in the 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz band early next year and Corbett believes that the auction represents a genuine opportunity to boost connectivity in the UK. The spectrum will likely be brought by the UK's four mobile network operators (Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three), who will use it to rollout 5G services over the coming 5-10 years. Corbett believes that by allowing other companies to utilise the spectrum to provide fixed wireless broadband access in the short to medium term, the country could receive a significant boost in connectivity for people in its hard to reach rural communities.    

“The UK’s independent broadband industry is desperate to help deliver high-performance broadband to homes and business, leading the way in full fibre and wireless services. But delivering full fibre everywhere will take years or even decades,” continued Corbett. “With access to the new spectrum band, wireless broadband operators could install superfast and even ultrafast broadband to millions of properties quickly and at a low cost. But this cannot happen without a change in how spectrum is allocated.”

A new report commissioned by INCA suggests that Ofcom would be better served by allocating spectrum on a geographical basis, allowing the big 4 MNOs to purchase spectrum in densely populated urban centres and allowing specialist FWA providers to bid on spectrum for hard to each areas.

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