Ofcom consults on 6GHz spectrum use for 5G delivery


Ofcom has launched a consultation to examine whether using spectrum bands above 6GHz could deliver 5G mobile network services offering superfast data transmission speeds.

The consultation will garner industry feedback on the sustainable use of very high frequency spectrum bands for 5G networks that offer data speeds of between 10-to-50 Gbit/s.

The regulator is also evaluating the use of lower frequency bands for 5G, as part of its wider assessment of how to deliver connectivity using a mix of new and existing bandwidth.

However, spectrum in the 6GHz band and above is in short supply, as it's already used for scientific research, satellite broadcasting and weather monitoring purposes.

As a result, the consultation will also investigate if there would be much mileage in using the spectrum band for 5G, alongside its current uses, or whether this would lead to a capacity crunch later down the line.

There is presently no concrete timeframe for when 5G will launch, although Ofcom predicts we could start to see commercial applications for the technology emerge by 2020.

This projection is in keeping in with London Mayor Boris Johnson's assertion last summer that the capital will have widespread access to 5G network services by 2020.

Steve Unger, acting chief executive for Ofcom, said the consultation will play an important role in establishing the UK as a global leader in wireless communications.

"Working with industry, we want to lay the foundations for the UK's next generation of wireless communications," said Unger.

"5G must deliver a further step change in the capacity of wireless networks, over and above that currently being delivered by 4G.

"No network has infinite capacity, but we need to move closer to the ideal of there always being sufficient capacity to meet consumers' needs."

Phillip Marnick, spectrum group director at Ofcom, added: "We want to explore how high frequency spectrum could potentially offer significant capacity for extremely fast 5G mobile data.

"This could pave the way for innovative new mobile services for UK consumers and businesses."

The delivery of 5G services is the subject of fevered activity within academic circles, with the University of Surrey and King's College University in London among those leading UK innovation efforts in this area.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.