Ofcom to launch 5G consultation

Image: Blackzheep via iStock

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator and competition authority, has begun a consultation on the first tranche of its 5G spectrum auction.

The watchdog said that frequencies in the 3.6GHz-3.8GHz band could be perfect for operators to provide future mobile services.

In its consultation document, Ofcom said: “We consider this band a high priority band for future mobile use, due to the large amount of spectrum available and the interest in this band for the rollout of future 5G services (the fifth generation of mobile connectivity technology, which is currently being developed).”

According to Ofcom, the 3.4GHz to 3.8GHz band as a whole represents a good opportunity because it is “harmonised across Europe for mobile and has sufficiently large bandwidth for 5G”.

Both national regulators and the mobile industry have identified it as a band with the potential for an early launch of 5G services, said Ofcom.

Currently, the band is being used by satellite services for space to Earth communications and for a fixed broadband link.

Ofcom said: “Leadership in 5G services and early availability is a priority for many national governments, including the UK government, as well as the European Union (EU). It is our goal that spectrum should not hold back the deployment of 5G services.”

The consultation comes as the chief executive of Arqiva, the company that owns thousands of telecoms masts around the country, has said that the UK risks falling behind in the global race towards 5G.

Simon Beresford-Wylie said that the UK is behind countries such as the US, South Korea and Japan because mobile operators do not make a big enough return on network investments.

Mr Beresford-Wylie told The Telegraph: “We have the luxury of low costs as consumers but the consequence of that is that the networks are not great.

“It needs to be sorted out so there are reasonable returns. If we don’t see a path to that then to say the UK is going to be a 5G leader is just rhetoric.”