Future demand for mobile broadband spectrum and consideration of potential candidate bands

  • Start: 18 March 2013
  • Status: Closed
  • End: 29 April 2013

1.1 World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) set the international regulatory framework for spectrum by amending and agreeing a set of regulations (the "Radio Regulations") that defines the status of different radio services with respect to neighbouring territories. In addition, WRCs can agree on harmonisation measures for particular wireless applications. These conferences occur every three to four years with an agenda established by the previous conference.

1.2 Ofcom takes the lead for the United Kingdom (UK) in WRC negotiations under direction from the Government. We are therefore actively engaged in UK, European and international preparations for the next WRC in 2015 (WRC-15).

1.3 One of the issues at WRC-15 is agenda item 1.1, which concerns the availability of spectrum for mobile broadband applications over the next 10 to 15 years. It is anticipated that new spectrum ranges are likely to be needed in future to accommodate growing demand for mobile data. WRC 15 will therefore consider options for new frequency allocations suitable for mobile broadband (including Wi-Fi) and identification of frequency ranges as suitable for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), the ITU term that encompasses 3G, 4G and 5G wireless broadband systems.

1.4 The purpose of this Call for Input is to give stakeholders an opportunity to state their views and provide evidence on:

  • the future spectrum requirements for mobile broadband; and
  • the set of potential frequency ranges that WRC 15 could consider for new mobile allocations.

1.5 We are issuing the Call for Inputs now as we want to use the results to inform the development of UK positions and negotiating lines for two key ITU-R meetings in July, which will be prioritising frequency ranges for study and reaching initial conclusions on spectrum requirements for mobile broadband. These positions and negotiating lines will also feed through to the associated meetings of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations (CEPT), specifically the Conference Preparatory Group (CPG) and CPG Project Team D (CPG PTD) which are responsible for co-ordinating European positions for WRCs. In addition to the ITU R and CEPT activity, there are other initiatives underway to assess the availability of spectrum for mobile broadband, including within the EU, and the results from this call for input will also inform our work in these areas.

1.6 Although there are linkages, the availability of spectrum for mobile broadband in the United Kingdom is a separate matter from the allocations and identifications that may be made by WRC 15. When Ofcom comes to make decisions about how to authorise use of the spectrum bands for any purpose, including for mobile broadband, it must do so in accordance with its relevant statutory duties as set out in the Communications Act 2003, the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006, and applicable EU law. If WRC 15 identifies spectrum for IMT this does not necessarily mean that it will be used for that purpose in the UK. On the other hand, if WRC-15 does not identify a spectrum band for IMT then it is somewhat unlikely that it will be used for that purpose in the UK.

1.7 Related work is taking place within the European Union, where the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) is undertaking a detailed analysis of spectrum bands between 400 MHz and 6 GHz which could in future become available for wireless broadband. This is in response to last year's Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) which requires Member States to make every effort to identify at least 1200 MHz of spectrum for wireless data traffic by 2015. The RSPG work is strategic in nature and aims to provide policy advice to the European Commission, as opposed to the more technically focused work being undertaken within CEPT and ITU. On 7 March the RSPG issued a consultation on a draft Opinion on wireless broadband with responses required by 29 April 2013 .

1.8 Ofcom intends to provide further opportunities for comment on the full range of issues which will be addressed at WRC-15, and on our approach to responding to the forecast requirements for mobile broadband data. We will be engaging further with stakeholders on these issues, and we also welcome stakeholder views at any point in the WRC 15 preparation process through the appropriate stakeholder groups.

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