Ofcom launches consultation on 700MHz, 1400MHz and 3.6GHz-3.8GHz bands

1 Jun 2017

Swiss telecom watchdog the Federal Office of Communications (Ofcom) has launched a public consultation regarding the allocation of new mobile radio spectrum due to become available from 2019. The consultation paper covers spectrum in three new bands – 700MHz, 1400MHz and 3400MHz-3800MHz – which have been identified as potentially compatible with future 5G technologies, as well as a single unused 2×5MHz block of 2600MHz spectrum (2565MHz-2570MHz/2685MHz-2690MHz). Ofcom has sought opinions of interested parties on the distribution of the airwaves, setting a deadline of 31 July 2017 for submissions.

In the 700MHz band, 2×30MHz of spectrum (703MHz-733MHz/758MHz-788MHz) and 20MHz of downlink-only spectrum (738MHz-758MHz) will become available from 2019, although the regulator is considering reserving a portion of airwaves for a public safety network. Similarly, the amount of spectrum in the 1400MHz range that Ofcom can allocate to mobile providers may be restricted by the use of the upper and lower sections of the band for radio relay systems, particularly in the border regions. A maximum of 91MHz of downlink-only frequencies will become available in 2019, though use of the upper (1492MHz-1518MHz) and lower (1427MHz-1452MHz) tranches may be limited, leaving just the 40MHz central block (1452MHz-1492MHz).

Finally, the 3400MHz-3800MHz range also presents problems. Ofcom notes that the current plan for the spectrum is to reserve the airwaves for regional broadband wireless access (BWA) concessions, but discussions regarding the matter are ongoing. At present, only one company holds a licence for spectrum in the band and, although the concession is due to expire at the end of 2017, the operator wishes to continue operating in the band. Meanwhile, the range is also of interest for use for other applications on a temporary basis, with Ofcom adding that it is difficult to find alternative bands for use during major events, such as the Tour de France and Tour de Suisse. Further complicating the matter, the 3600MHz-3800MHz is currently used by land-based satellite stations, potentially restricting its availability for use with mobile networks. The watchdog is considering carving up the range into either a 190MHz block of time division duplex (TDD) spectrum at 3410MHz-3600MHz or 160MHz (2×80MHz) of frequency division duplex (FDD) spectrum at 3410MHz-3490MHz/3510MHz-3590MHz, plus a 200MHz block of TDD spectrum at 3600MHz-3800MHz.

Switzerland, Federal Office of Communications (Ofcom)