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Ofcom Releases Five-Year Plan for Fixed Wireless Adoption and 5G

Ofcom's five-year plan for fixed wireless adoption was published after extensive consultation from stakeholders.

By Umar Hassan

Ofcom have released their five-year plan for fixed wireless adoption to further accelerate the adoption of 5G technology.

The report, published this week, was created after extensive engagement from stakeholders from major mobile network operators to small-to-medium-sized businesses.

Ofcom’s states that: “Our high-level goal is to ensure that spectrum is not a barrier to making communications work for everyone.”

“Our objective in developing our forward work plan was therefore to ensure timely availability of the right mix of spectrum for the fixed wireless sector and with the right authorisation approaches to meet future requirements.”

Companies who were part of the consultation included Facebook, BT, Huawei Technologies and Intel to name but a few.

This comes after the UK communications regulator’s 5G principal spectrum auction where five mobile operators were competing for 190MHz of spectrum in March 2018.

What Are Fixed Wireless Links?

Fixed wireless links are generally used to provide in some form of backhaul or access connectivity.

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Backhaul fixed wireless links can be used to transport aggregated communication signals.

Access fixed wireless links generally provide communications between network access points and fixed-user termination points (also referred to as fixed wireless access).

Applications that benefit from fixed wireless links include mobile network backhaul provision, emergency services communications backhaul, and fixed wireless access (i.e. broadband).

Three Key Frequency Ranges

In Ofcom’s report, it developed a plan to divide the three main frequency ranges for fixed wireless links.

Frequency bands will range from below 20GHz for rural and suburban areas, up to bands between 20-45GHz in urban areas where mobile backhaul connectivity will be a major primary use in that spectrum.

When it came to bands over 45GHz, Ofcom commented in the report:

“Over the next 5 years we expect greater focus and take up in the 60/65 GHz bands as well as continued growth in 70/80 GHz. There is also a strong interest in complementing these bands with higher capacity spectrum above 92 GHz.”

5G

With much of the focus being centred around 5G, the responses within the report highlighted that fixed wireless links in the future will be required to carry very high capacity traffic.

Most responses in the report agreed that the key demand drivers included increasing demand for mobile services such as 5G.

Ofcom say that they “plan to consider spectrum within the 3.8-4.2 GHz range for enhanced sharing” that could include applications such as rural fixed wireless access.

The report added: “As indicated in our 5G discussion document we plan to increase shared use of the 3.8-4.2 GHz spectrum, while taking into account existing use as well as compatibility with adjacent uses.”

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