By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
UK regulator has opened a consultation into possible new regulation for the upper 6 GHz band suggesting the band should be opened up for lightly licensed low-power indoor use. Ofcom is also suggesting that licenses could later be revoked in case they decide to authorise 5G services in the band or enable license-exempt use. It is all a little unusual but at least the beginnings of a regulatory discussion on the upper 6 GHz band in the UK.
Yesterday UK regulator Ofcom published a consultation document asking for comment on a possible new spectrum sharing arrangement for the upper 6 GHz band in the UK. The band in question is 6425 MHz to 7070 MHz (hence stopping short of the upper limit of the US 6 GHz band) and Ofcom is suggesting the band be licensed for low-power indoor use ‘for an area within 50 meter radius of a central point’.
A license for such operations would cost an annual fee of GBP 320 (about US$428) per radio unit, Ofcom says. The full consultation document can be found here.
Ofcom also suggest they would retain the right to revoke the licenses with one months notice should they prefer to issue 5G licenses in this band at a later point in time or decide to finally make the band license-exempt (which would be largely in-line with the regulatory decisions of other parts of the world although the band in the UK case ends at 7070 MHz). The logic – says Ofcom – is that such a move would allow organisations to receive the benefits of local licensing now and until further notice. Such a licensing scheme would be attractive for industrial and research activities, Ofcom says.
The good new is that the upper 6 GHz band in question is not extensively used in the UK and hence some form of sharing should certainly be possible. New regulation would also mean that enterprises could take advantage of Wi-Fi equipment operating across the entire 6 GHz band. The bad news – for now – is that the suggested regulation would in practice exclude (at least until further notice) the most common Wi-Fi use cases such as broadband for the home and office. Add to this that it may not be particularly attractive for industry to use this either – knowing that their licenses may be revoked with a month’s notice.
Chris Szymanski – Director of Product Marketing & Technology Strategy at Broadcom – says the consultation is an important first step in the right direction but also says that license exempt would ultimately be the right choice of regulation for this band.
“My hope is that this proposal can be expanded in the future from light licensing to license exempt because ultimately the general public will also need access to this additional frequency range once Wi-Fi 7 Access Points are deployed using 320 MHz channels,” Chris Szymanski says.
The full notice and documents can be found here. Respondents have until 11. April to submit answers.