Ofcom to boost 5G networks by defragmenting 3.4-3.8 GHz bands

The country’s telecommunications watchdog, Ofcom, has submitted a proposal to defragment its radio spectrum between the 3.4-3.8 GHz bands following an auction next year to ensure mobile network operators get the best of their new 5G networks.

As a rule of thumb, 5G networks tend to perform at their best when they have access to “large, contiguous blocks of [radio] spectrum”. And as the UK takes steps towards deploying 5G infrastructure around the country, the regulator has insisted that action be taken to defragment existing radio bands and auction them to mobile operators to ensure the best performance and most efficient costs on their 5G infrastructure.

Ofcom’s statement to the public said: “In order to facilitate defragmentation of the 3.4-3.8 GHz band, we are minded to impose a restriction on winners of less than 20MHz of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum to bidding only for the top or bottom of the 3.6-3.8 GHz band in the assignment stage of the auction.

“In addition, we are also minded to include a negotiation phase, within the assignment stage of the auction, during which winners of the 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum would have the opportunity to agree on the assignment of frequencies in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band between themselves.

“This document sets out our revised proposals and two possible sub-options of the negotiation phase. One sub-option, which we considered in the December 2018 consultation, would require unanimous agreement among the winning bidders of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum. The other sub-option, which have set out in this document in light of stakeholders’ comments, would allow for partial agreement in the absence of unanimous agreement.”

The regulator will continue to consult on the proposal until 10 July 2019 and will publish their decision and winners of the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz bands in the latter half of the year. Presently, Ofcom’s aim is to put in place the infrastructure to conduct the auction in Spring 2020 and plans for this are well on their way without known delays.