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Airwaves opened up to support wireless revolution

25 July 2019

Start-ups and small businesses to get easier access to airwaves for new wireless servicesFarming and factories among the sectors likely to benefit from innovationFarmers, factories and business parks are some of the groups that could benefit from a revolution in wireless technology, following a decision by Ofcom today to open up airwaves to support innovation and enable new services.Ofcom manages the UK’s airwaves – or spectrum – which are crucial to power services such as mobile phones, wireless broadband and connected devices.To help promote wireless innovation across the UK economy, we have today decided to open up airwaves that previously could only be used by certain parties. We’re also allowing different groups to access airwaves licensed to mobile companies, but not being used by them.Under the a new sharing framework, these airwaves will be available for local use by a range of other parties – such as small businesses or pioneering start-up firms. Ofcom is adding safeguards to ensure that these users do not cause interference to existing users.Supporting innovationThe new approach could pave the way for a number of new services. For example:Manufacturers could establish connected factories – using a reliable, high-speed wireless networks to connect, control and monitor machinery.Farmers could also set up their own local network across large sites, improving communications between people and connected agricultural devices – used for monitoring livestock and crops, irrigation systems and smart tractors.Business parks could set up their own bespoke, secure communications networks – without needing to rely on existing mobile and broadband coverage.Holiday parks could help their visitors stay connected during their break, by setting up local mobile broadband networks.Shopping centres, transport hubs such as ports and companies in the logistics industry may also be interested in setting up their own local networks, using the spectrum we’re making available.Better connections for rural communitiesAs well as supporting industry to innovate, the sharing approach could help small communities – mostly in rural areas – where national mobile networks have yet to reach.Under the new rules, villages, small business groups and other communities can apply to access airwaves which are licensed to the major mobile companies but not currently used by them locally. These could be used to support dedicated local mobile or wireless broadband networks, improving coverage in the area.Philip Marnick, Spectrum Group Director at Ofcom, said: “Wireless spectrum is a valuable, finite resource, so it’s vital we use it efficiently.“Our new sharing approach will help more people access airwaves to create local networks around the UK. The benefits of this innovation could extend across our economy, from farms to factories, as well as supporting new technology firms.”the 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz shared spectrum bands, which are currently used for mobile services;the 3.8-4.2 GHz band, which supports the latest 5G mobile technology; andthe 26 GHz band, which has also been identified as one of the main bands for 5G in the future. We have added this band since first proposing our spectrum sharing approach (PDF, 3.3 MB) in December 2018.NOTES TO EDITORSIn December we consulted on opening up three spectrum bands for sharing: the 1800 MHz, 2300 MHz and 3.8-4.2 GHz sharing bands. We have now added the lower 26 GHz band to our spectrum sharing framework.

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