Call for Input: Potential spectrum bands to support utilities sector transformation
- Start: 29 June 2023
- Status: Closed
- End: 07 September 2023
Ofcom is seeking views on five potential candidate spectrum bands that might be suitable to support the future operational communications needs of the utilities sector. These are:
- 400 MHz (Northern Ireland only): 410-412 MHz paired with 420-422 MHz; 412-414 MHz paired with 422-424 MHz
- 450 MHz: within 450-470 MHz, part or all of 451-456 MHz / 461-466 MHz or 452.5-457.5 MHz / 462.5-467.5 MHz
- 700 MHz: 733-736 MHz paired with 788-791 MHz
- 800/900 MHz (Northern Ireland only): 876-880 MHz paired with 921-925 MHz
- 1900 MHz: 1900-1920 MHz
The utilities sector’s communication needs are growing. The biggest changes are being driven by the electricity sector transforming to support net zero, which is seeing fundamental shifts in how power is generated and used. While there are various options for meeting these communication needs, a private wide area network might require access to additional spectrum.
At this stage we are not making any specific proposals to change the use of any of these bands but aiming to improve understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the potential candidate bands across stakeholders.
If in future we need to develop specific proposals we would consult on these. The responses received in response to this call for input will help inform our development of any such proposals.
Where relevant, we examine potential spectrum bands in different parts of the UK, as it may be possible to use a different band in Northern Ireland than Great Britain.
Responses to our June call for input provided us with updated information on the candidate spectrum bands that might be suitable to support the future operational communications needs of the utilities sector.
Our discussions with government indicate that it is committed to supporting a system that is fit for the future needs of the smart grid. Before making a decision on how to move forward, it is looking at the costs of all options to ensure value for money for energy consumers.
We continue to work closely with government to support its net zero goals.
We received 36 responses to our call for input (one confidential) from stakeholders representing the energy and water sectors, infrastructure providers, public bodies, equipment manufacturers, mobile network operators, and incumbent spectrum users from the PMSE and business radio communities.
- Stakeholders widely supported a focus on sub 1 GHz candidate bands which facilitate early deployment.
- The bands favoured by respondents if spectrum was required in the next few years were the 400 MHz and 700 MHz bands in Northern Ireland, and the 700 MHz band in Great Britain.
We will provide a further update on our next steps in due course, including any plans to consult on specific proposals should access to new spectrum be required to support a private network. We are continuing work to confirm the suitability of these bands for use by the utilities sector. In light of information provided in CFI responses, we also intend to further consider the longer term trends relating to the use of the 450 MHz band in the UK, taking account of the requirements of existing and potential future users.