How Ofcom has enabled innovation through spectrum sharing

06 August 2020

Last year we published our decision to support local connectivity requirements by opening up airwaves (spectrum) previously only available for certain services for shared use. We made new local licences available in a range of spectrum bands which support mobile technology, including bands already licensed to mobile companies.

By making these airwaves available for local use, we wanted to broaden the opportunities for users from a range of sectors to use wireless connectivity to benefit their businesses and customers.

Since making the changes, we have started to see the spectrum being used in a number of different ways across various sectors:

In business

  • Using mobile, SMS and data so workers can use existing mobile phones to communicate through secure private networks inside buildings or on sites with limited mobile coverage.
  • Using private 4G networks in offices or on-site communications for calls and data services as well Internet of Things.
  • Testing 4G and 5G technology to develop private 5G networks within businesses and new 5G use cases.

Improving mobile coverage

  • Providing low-cost mobile coverage indoors for staff and residents in a residential care home where there is a weak existing mobile signal.
  • Trialling multi-operator 5G mobile networks to improve mobile coverage in rural areas with poor mobile coverage.
  • Demonstration of small-scale mobile coverage solution

Rural wireless broadband / fixed wireless access

  • Providing fixed wireless broadband in rural communities and holiday parks.

Manufacturing

  • Testing private 4G and 5G connections in manufacturing sites to support workplace automation, remote machine and product monitoring to improve efficiency and productivity.

Automotive

  • Testing connected and autonomous vehicles using 5G.

Utilities

  • Using private 4G networks for ‘smart’ utility grids.

Tourism and environment management

  • Trialling 5G networks to explore how they could be used to help preserve forests and the environment, and improving the experience of visitors to the forest and surrounding area.

Aviation

  • Private 4G networks in airfields for fixed and mobile equipment

We are here to support new users in considering their spectrum requirements. The two types of local licences available are the Local access and Shared access where guidance and contact details can be found on the Ofcom website.

What is spectrum?

Spectrum, or airwaves, is the invisible infrastructure that supports all devices that need to communicate wirelessly – such as televisions, car key fobs, baby monitors, wireless microphones and satellites. It is crucial for services such as mobile phones, which use spectrum to connect to a local mast so people can make calls and access the internet.

Only a limited amount of spectrum is available, so it needs to be managed carefully. Ofcom is responsible for managing UK spectrum to maximise the benefits of UK consumers.