In these early days of 5G, there is very little agreement on which spectrum bands it will use. So far, discussions within the telecoms industry have focused on broader questions. Should the focus be on spectrum above or below 6 GHz? If so, when?
One band that frequently comes up in discussions is the 28 GHz band. Both Samsung, which mentioned it at a 3GPP 5G RAN workshop last month as a possible “mmWave band” for 5G small cells, and Straight Path, which owns licences for the band across large parts of the US, have talked up its prospects.
Regulators in the Americas have agreed to propose studying it at WRC-19 – when spectrum above 6 GHz is expected to be identified for mobile broadband – but the European and Asian groups of regulators have omitted the band from their lists of candidate frequencies. Today we report that South Korea is believed by some to be considering a multi-country proposal to bypass opposition from its colleagues within the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity.
As 5G development is at an early stage, a lack of consensus on these issues is par for the course and does not present any significant problems. Unless, that is, you are the UK regulator and are tasked with basing fees for using the band on its market value.
As the regulator agreed to make licences in the band indefinite as long as licensees paid annual fees, the band’s value is not an abstract question. It is a policy conundrum to be solved.
Despite the fact that the band can be used for fixed wireless access, and was auctioned for that purpose in 2000, the frequencies in the UK are typically used for fixed links. By benchmarking the fees it charges for fixed links at similar frequencies, Ofcom has come up with annual fees for the 28 GHz band.
So aside from global discussions about 5G, at least when it comes to setting spectrum fees in the short and medium term, it seems the UK regulator does not expect the 28 GHz band to be used for 5G.
Toby Youell, PolicyTracker