DCMS announces GBP40m for 5G testbeds; Ofcom consults on plans to defragment 3.4GHz-3.8GHz band

13 Jun 2019

A further GBP40 million (USD50.9 million) is to be invested by the British government in 5G testbed and trial projects across the country’s industries as part of efforts to improve mobile connectivity. Announcing the funding, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) noted that – with previous investment in 5G testbeds/trials having driven work in the healthcare, tourism, transport and broadcasting sectors – the next round will support similar work in the areas of logistics and manufacturing. Commenting, Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said: ‘5G is about more than mobile phone consumers having a fast and reliable connection anywhere in the country. It’s a vital piece of technology that can be used to improve the productivity and growth of our industrial sectors. That’s why we’re excited to develop new trials in areas such as manufacturing and logistics that can really benefit from 5G.’

The DCMS also noted that, in addition to the new funding, the government will consult on proposals to simplify planning processes in England to support the further rollout of 4G and drive the faster introduction of 5G. Its plans here reportedly involve tackling barriers to deployment and creating the right conditions for investment to deliver better network coverage, with a key element of this being making new spectrum available to increase capacity for mobile connectivity. To that end, the Ministry of Defence, in partnership with the DCMS, has committed to making 168MHz of new spectrum available to facilitate the deployment of fixed and mobile networks. According to the government, this means it has already exceeded its target to make 500MHz of public sector spectrum available for commercial use by 2020, although it said it would continue to work with departments to explore opportunities for more spectrum to be made available.

Finally, in related news UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced the launch of a public consultation on its plans regarding the award process for 5G-suitable spectrum in the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz band. With Ofcom having previously consulted on proposals for the award by auction of frequencies in the 700MHz and 3.6GHz-3.8GHz bands in December 2018, having considered response in relation to fragmentation of the latter band, it is now looking for feedback on revised proposals for part of the award process, ‘with the aim of facilitating defragmentation’. According to Ofcom there is consensus that optimal deployment of 5G would be best achieved through large contiguous blocks, although it notes that the current holdings in the band mean that holdings after its planned spectrum sale are likely to be fragmented without some degree of block trading.