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Ofcom confirms plans to free up more spectrum for future 5G services

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has confirmed its intention to make more spectrum available for mobile data services, including potential 5G services in future.

Ofcom said (89-page / 783KB PDF) the 116 MHz of spectrum within the 3.6 GHz to 3.8 GHz band that is not currently used for mobile data services would be made available for such services to help account for "growing consumer demand for mobile data services" and to support "innovative 5G services".

It intends to auction off the spectrum, alongside spectrum it will make available in the 700 MHz band, in 2019.

The move will require some existing users of the spectrum to migrate to other frequencies, although some satellite earth station operators, which receive transmissions from space, may be able to continue to operate alongside the mobile services which will be delivered via the spectrum without causing interference, Ofcom said.

The regulator said that mobile network operators could make use of the new spectrum within the 3.6 GHz to 3.8 GHz band in some areas of the UK "from around 2020", but that the spectrum may not be available to use for mobile data services nationwide until some time in 2022.

"Making additional spectrum available for future mobile services including 5G is likely to support improvements in consumer mobile data services, as well as the early development and adoption of new mobile services, including 5G applications," Ofcom said. "We expect that the benefits resulting from our decision will be greater the sooner the spectrum can be used for mobile services, once a device ecosystem is available. Our objective is therefore to make the band available as soon as practicable."

Ofcom previously said that spectrum in the 3.6 GHz to 3.8 GHz band could be used to support 5G services.

Stakeholders can respond to Ofcom's consultation up until 22 September.

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