CICRA consulting on revised plans for 5G spectrum awards

21 Nov 2019

A consultation has been launched by the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities (CICRA) relating to plans for the awarding of 5G-suitable spectrum. Having previously consulted on plans for the allocation of spectrum for 5G, specifically in the 700MHz and 3.4GHz-3.8GHz bands, the regulator noted that the response from stakeholders had identified ‘a number of issues’ with its earlier plans, which included a proposal to allocate just a single 5G licence in the States of Jersey and Guernsey, which would have carried an obligation to provide access to other operators on a wholesale basis. Specifically, stakeholders were said to have raised concerns related to ‘significant interoperability issues between 5G and 4G networks in the next [two to three years] (until standalone 5G technology becomes available)’.

As a result of the initial feedback, the CICRA has now put forward an amended plan, under which it envisages allocating a minimum amount of 5G spectrum to all successful applicants, subject to a set of minimum requirements in terms of rollout of 5G services. Meanwhile, the regulator has said that applicants will be able to apply for additional spectrum if they are prepared to make commitments that exceed the minimum requirements, subject to such proposals meeting CICRA’s and relevant government’s requirements. Further, the latest plans note that, while the amount of spectrum issued might vary depending on the degree to which operators are willing to exceed the minimum requirements, some 5G spectrum (at least 100MHz in the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz band) will be held back and allocated at a later date; this later allocation will be made ‘when 5G technology matures (after Release 16 becomes available) and when there is more clarity over demand for 5G spectrum from new use cases and applications’.

In terms of timeline for the spectrum award, the CICRA has said it intends to issue an invitation to tender in January 2020, with a recommendation on the award of spectrum expected to be made to British telecoms regulator Ofcom in July 2020. Following this, the pan-Channel Islands regulator expects to publish the spectrum award in August 2020, with the licence expected to become valid in September 2020. A closing date of 13 January 2020 has been set for the consultation on the matter, meanwhile.