Ofcom aiming to open up 5G market to new entrants

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has unveiled plans to potentially allow thousands of new entrants to the country's 5G market by reserving parts of the available spectrum for local, small-scale uses.

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has unveiled plans to potentially allow thousands of new entrants to the country’s 5G market by reserving parts of the available spectrum for local, small-scale uses.

At a 5G World event in London, the organisation detailed proposals to ringfence 390MHz of ‘mid-band’ spectrum between 3.8GHz and 4.2GHz for local coverage and campus use. This would allow enterprises or communities to obtain licenses for the development of low-power 5G networks that could cover areas of as little as 50 square metres.

Mansoor Hanif, Ofcom’s chief technology officer, said the “revolutionary” plans would encourage new entrants and provide opportunities for 5G connectivity to be brought to everyone.

He said: “We want to give low-cost access to local spectrum so that anyone who thinks they need 5G coverage on an industrial campus and feels it isn’t served by MNOs (mobile network operators) fast enough should be able to build their own network.”

However, it was noted by Light Reading that the plans are likely to be opposed by existing network operators. A similar scheme in Germany, where regulators reserved 100MHz of “mid-band” spectrum for local, industrial use, has been blamed by operators for driving up the price of spectrum during the country’s initial 5G auction. Final bids at that auction reached €6.5 billion (£5.8 billion) last week.

Mr Hanif said that as well as offering new opportunities to bring 5G access to locations that would otherwise not be well-served by the technology, the plan would lead to more secure 5G networks.

This would be because companies starting from scratch would opt for the ‘standalone’ version of the technology, which comes with a new 5G core network.

“A non-standalone 5G network built on 4G will have the same vulnerabilities as 4G, but a new ecosystem of critical industries building on 3.8GHz does not need to build on the 4G base and can go straight to standalone and build a more secure 5G network,” he said.

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