European member states are making considerable efforts to release spectrum in 3.4-3.6 GHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz as soon as possible and – more importantly under the right technical conditions.
One example of a strong effort is Italy, which as we reported yesterday is in the very final stages of talks on this, with an announcement due next week.
Timescales for auctions are important, but you can’t hold back a technology that doesn’t quite exist yet and, even with the advances being made in the band and its potential to work with mmWave, as we reported earlier this week, there is clearly still a lot to do here before we see anything close to the 5G vision being realised in this band.
But European policymakers, who fear being left behind by the US in the 5G stakes, can perhaps breathe a sigh of relief that the US, in the words of one technical expert from Qualcomm, appears to be “the outlier” (and not in a good way) when it comes to new mobile technology in the 3.5 GHz range.
US operators say the 7 x10 MHz channels in CBRS are not big enough for 5G and have to rub shoulders with a protected incumbent and general access tiers. Some European countries and China seem to have the right idea by looking to release exclusive licences for larger contiguous bandwidths, often 40 MHz and above.
But a coherent regional approach is yet to be agreed and Andreas Geiss, the head of the European Commission’s spectrum unit hopes that a forthcoming opinion from their RSPG advisory group will put forward the necessary concrete measures.
But this poses another challenge. The RSPG’s interim opinion said that licensing conditions should not be harmonised at EU level and as a group it tends not to support centralised measures, such as mandatory peer reviews of awards.
The public consultation for this draft opinion is scheduled to start around December. Until then the Commission can only rely on CEPT’s technical conditions and its influence in the RSPG and the Radio Communications Committee. When it comes to making the band 5G-ready, the rest is up to member states.