Vision for sharing upper 6 GHz spectrum between Wi-Fi and mobile

Published: 21 May 2024

Ofcom has today set out its vision for how shared use of the upper 6 GHz spectrum band could enable both Wi-Fi and mobile services, while also continuing to serve the band’s existing users as much as possible.

As people use ever more data in their daily lives, there are increasing demands on radio spectrum. It is a finite resource, so we are considering innovative ways of ensuring that it is used as efficiently as possible.

In July 2023, we consulted on an approach that would allow both Wi-Fi and mobile services to share spectrum in the upper 6 GHz band, known as ‘hybrid sharing’. This would be the first time Wi-Fi and licensed mobile technologies share spectrum extensively.

How it could work

Today’s paper outlines two possible approaches that could form part of a sharing framework:

  1. Variable spectrum split. Both Wi-Fi and mobile would be able to use any part of the band where the other is not deployed, but have sections of it they are prioritised in. This could be done by each technology transmitting a specific signal so they can sense and avoid each other.
  2. Indoor/outdoor split. Wi-Fi routers tend to be indoors to serve a particular household, whereas mobile base stations are mostly located outdoors to provide coverage to a wider area. The band could be managed to prioritise the indoor use of Wi-Fi while also prioritising mobile use outdoors.

Collaboration and next steps

We are working with industry to develop a hybrid sharing framework and the necessary coexistence solutions. We are also working with other European regulators, with a technical report on this topic is scheduled to be published in 2025. Earlier this month we welcomed a range of technology companies and European regulators to a workshop on this topic. The ideas discussed by the approximately 70 participants will help us further refine our thinking.

The UK Government’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology is also funding several trials until March 2025 to explore new spectrum sharing techniques, which should provide insights for our work.

Next year, we will set out further details on how we intend to make the upper 6GHz band available in the UK, and will consult before making any decisions on future use of the band.

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