Work to determine which radio spectrum bands are most suitable for "refarming" needs to start today, according to a new report

Spectrum 'refarming' plans must start now says report

Regulators must plan now to ensure enough radio spectrum is available to satisfy future demand for mobile data services.

The review, published today by spectrum management consultancy EcrossH and commissioned by Huawei, found there is consensus among mobile operators that there is sufficient UK spectrum available in the short to medium-term following the recent 4G auction.

But additional spectrum resources will be required in the lead up to 2020 and even more in the following years. Steve Roper, an independent spectrum specialist for EcrossH, says work needs to start now to identify those spectrum bands that offer the best prospects for “refarming”.

“Given the importance of mobile broadband data services to the economic prosperity of the UK, mobile networks must have access to appropriate spectrum resources as the volume of data traffic grows,” he said.

“Not all radio spectrum is the same and it is essential that mobile network operators have access to spectrum across a wide range of frequencies.  This is like having the correct tool for the job.

“We have to start preparing for this now. Planning and delivering spectrum refarming projects takes time – the digital TV switchover, for example, took six years. Ofcom, European regulators and the industry as a whole should see this as a call to action.”

The report draws on recent literature and interviews with representatives from DCMS, Ofcom, Huawei and the UK’s main mobile operators.

It highlights five spectrum bands that hold the greatest potential for spectrum refarming to satisfy the projected growth in mobile data services: TV Broadcast band; L-Band; S-Band; Air Traffic Control Band (2700-2900 MHz); and Satellite services band (3400-4200 MHz).

The report concludes that in some spectrum bands it may be necessary to move incumbent users out in order to make way for mobile broadband services, as seen during the switchover from analogue to digital television, which enabled the release of spectrum for 4G services.

In other cases, sharing between new mobile broadband services and the incumbent users could also be possible, as for satellite services in the C-Band.

Victor Zhang, CEO of Huawei UK, said: “The report concludes the release of spectrum bands in the UK must be aligned with the release of spectrum elsewhere in Europe if the UK is to benefit from new, competitively-priced communications technologies, while ensuring incumbent users continue to have access to appropriate spectrum resources.

“We must all work to ensure the UK has sufficient spectrum to support the higher predicted level of mobile broadband traffic.”

The UK Radio Spectrum Report report is available free of charge here.

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