Ofcom releases spectrum to support local innovation
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:
Credit: Mary Theresa McLean/Pixabay

Ofcom announced on 25 July that it will open up spectrum for local use by organisations such as small businesses or start-ups and enabled people to apply to use spectrum that is held by mobile operators but isn’t being used.

The regulator claims that this new approach could enable new services such as connect factories, which use reliable, high-speed wireless networks to connect, control and monitor machinery; local networks for farmers that would cover large sites and improve communications between people and devices to monitor livestock, crops and smart tractors; free business parks from having to rely on existing mobile and broadband coverage; and allow holiday parks to provide connectivity to their guests through the creation of local mobile broadband networks.

Ofcom is:

  • Making spectrum in the 3.8-4.2 GHz, 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz bands available through local Shared Access licences;
  • Introducing a new way to access spectrum that is licenced to mobile operators but is not being used or planned for use in a particular (and probably remote) area within the next three years (Local Access licences); and
  • Has added the 24.25-26.5 GHz band to its spectrum sharing framework for indoor-only deployment.

It is now possible to apply for Local Access licences for licensed mobile spectrum bands, and people and organisations will be able to apply for Shared Access licences in the 1800 MHz shared spectrum, 2300 MHz shared spectrum, 3.8-4.2 GHz band and lower 26 GHz band by the end of this year.

Ofcom has also begun work to consider the feasibility of a future transition towards a dynamic spectrum access (DSA) approach supported by a fully automated central database in the bands outlined under its spectrum sharing framework. It is seeking input from interested parties to develop its approach and encourages these to contact it via SharedSpectrumAccess@ofcom.org.uk.

Philip Marnick, spectrum group director at Ofcom, said: “Wireless spectrum is a valuable, finite resource, so it’s vital we use it efficiently.

“Our new sharing approach will help more people access airwaves to create local networks around the UK. The benefits of this innovation could extend across our economy, from farms to factories, as well as supporting new technology firms.”

For full details on Ofcom’s decisions and their practical implications, see “Enabling wireless innovation through local licensing – Shared access to spectrum supporting mobile technology”.

The regulator has also published guidance documents for those wishing to apply for Shared Access licences and Local Access licences.

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