Ofcom turns to mmWave spectrum to boost UK 5G

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Ofcom has opened a consultation to see how millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum could be used to enhance 5G services in the UK.

5G will use a much greater variety of spectrum than previous generations of mobile technology, with regulators freeing up a mixture of low, mid, and high-band airwaves, offering a combination of range and capacity.

Commercial next-generations in the UK use a combination of low and mid-band frequencies, but some of the most revolutionary 5G applications will require even greater performance and reliability.

Verizon 5G

mmWave delivers massive capacity over a short range, making it ideal for high bandwidth applications that require a guaranteed level of throughput. 

The spectrum is already used in the US to support Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband, which offers an alternative to fibre broadband, and to boost 5G speeds.

Ofcom says it is looking at spectrum between the 26GHz and 40GHz range, believing it could be used to enhance mobile broadband, particularly in high density areas such as train stations and sports stadiums, as well as industrial applications. These include virtual reality, factory automation, and intelligent transport systems.

It says it plans to offer a combination of citywide and local licences for the 26GHz band and will set out a range of options for 40GHz. This includes revoking some existing licences to make space.

Separately, the regulator is also examining the spectrum needs of short range devices (SRDs). Thse include mass market, portable consumer products like keyless entry cards, baby monitors and garage door openers.

Ofcom believes more spectrum is needed for these devices, including for road safety, low power Wi-Fi, and drones.

Submissions for both consultations will be accepted until July.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.