Making it easier to launch new wireless services and 5G technology

08 November 2018

Ofcom has made more airwaves available, and introduced new rules, to make it easier for mobile phone companies and wireless broadband providers to launch new technology, including 5G services.

From later this month, more spectrum in the 60 GHz frequency range are being made available for companies to use without the need for a licence.

These airwaves can be used by whoever wants to, provided they meet the conditions of the licence exemption. They could be used for services including 5G, the next generation of wireless technology and very high-capacity applications such as fixed wireless access, which could enable fibre-like speeds to be delivered to homes wirelessly. They could also open up opportunities for new services in other sectors.

5G follows mobile technology such as 3G and 4G, and is expected to improve on these by enabling thousands of devices in a small area to be connected at the same time. This could lead to benefits in manufacturing, transport and healthcare.

The new rules announced today are part of Ofcom’s commitment to help the UK become a leader in 5G.

Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Spectrum Group Director, said: “By releasing new, licence-exempt airwaves, we’re underlining our commitment to enabling innovation. This spectrum will support new services such as faster data connections for homes and business, and very high-speed connections to support new applications.

“The spectrum being made available is more than is currently available for the services we all use every day - mobile, radio, TV and satellite TV and wifi technology, and could play an important part in the development of new services including 5G, that will benefit consumers and businesses.”

The changes will come into effect on 27 November 2018.

What is spectrum?

Spectrum is the invisible infrastructure that supports all devices needing to communicate without wires – such as televisions, car key fobs, baby monitors, wireless microphones and satellites. Mobile phones 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. Certain bands of spectrum are also used for different purposes.

The airwaves we’re making available are often referred to as ‘millimetre wave’ spectrum. They involve radio waves operating at extremely high frequencies. Frequencies in this spectrum range are currently used for a number of different services, including helping to provide wireless internet services.

What difference is 5G expected to make?