Home5GFive steps on the road to industrial 5G – spectrum / regulation (#2)

Five steps on the road to industrial 5G – spectrum / regulation (#2)

This article, in five parts, is continued from Step 1, about spectrum and regulation; this can be found here.


Another crucial part of the jigsaw-roadmap –  a clearing of the road, rather than a shortcut – is with spectrum. The lack of it, until now, has been a blocker for industry; without it, the so-called ‘fourth industrial revolution’ is stopped in its tracks, or forced to make its way more cautiously. 

The liberalization of spectrum in the world’s major industrial regions has brought the horizon closer. As we have argued before, governments want growth from industry and their prized industrial engines want control of their data – and thereby, their systems, innovations, and intellectual property. 

As such, regulators in the US, Germany, Japan, and the UK, notably, have moved to carve off prime chunks of mid-band spectrum for private or shared usage. This is increasingly available for private LTE already, switching over for private 5G as technology comes available and use cases dictate. 

Momentum is sudden, and moves have shaken the status quo in the market, where wireless operators have until now commanded every viable wave of licenced radio spectrum. But the logistics are still being worked through. In the US, CBRS airtime will be auctioned as an LTE resource, in the first instance, offering opportunities for running networks in both unlicensed general access (GAA) and licensed private access (PAL) spectrum. 

Some GAA operations are running already as initial commercial deployments (IDCs); commercial GAA operations will start imminently, when these IDCs complete and spectrum access system (SAS) administrators have been certified. The PAL auctions are scheduled to begin at the end of June 2020.

Meanwhile in Germany, Europe’s industrial powerhouse, the federal network agency, BNetzA, moved swiftly in March to release 100MHz of spectrum at 3.7-3.8 GHz to industry for local operations on a test basis, to the consternation of the operator set. But full applications have now gone in, from the likes of Bosch and Siemens

The German government heeded the noisy clamour from its industrial giants. “This success was largely due to support from Siemens and other well-known industrial companies and associations. This frequency band is ideal for small-scale applications,” says Siemens in a blog post

Sander Rotmensen, the company’s head of product management for industrial wireless, comments: “It makes sense that industry should have direct access to these frequencies. We know our plants’ requirements better than anyone. In the final analysis, what’s important for industry is to work as efficiently as possible, which also means maximum availability of the network infrastructure.”

He adds, referencing BNetzA’s rapid move on 3.7-3.8GHz: “We’re happy about that, not only because we have advocated this policy but also because Industrial 5G will enable us to completely connect industry for the first time.”

The UK has followed suit. Ofcom, the local regulator, will open up a large tranche of the UK airwaves for enterprises to deploy private and shared networks, dedicating the 3.8-4.2 GHz band for local deployments, requiring national operators to relinquish unused licensed spectrum to enterprises, and making available the lower 26 GHz band for private and shared access as well.

Japan is at it, too, joining these others, as well as the likes of Sweden, Hong Kong, and Australia, to allocate spectrum variously for private 5G networks in the 3.7 GHz, 26 GHz and 28 GHz frequency bands. The ministry of internal affairs and communications is releasing new spectrum now, as 2019 turns into 2020.

It has also opened up the private PHS (‘personal handy-phone service’) band at 1.9 GHz, presented in Japan as a ‘shared extended global platform’ (sXGP) for private LTE. This goes alongside usage of the global 5 GHz (wi-fi) band, which has already been co-opted, effectively, by mobile technologies.

The groundwork to make LTE viable in unlicensed spectrum has been carried out, at times like a passion project, by Nokia, Ericsson, and Qualcomm, among others, collaborating as the MulteFire Alliance.

Their seminal work to standardise LTE for usage in the global 3.5 GHz and 5 GHz bands, and latterly the 2.4 GHz, 1.9 GHz, and sub-GHz bands, has informed the new 3GPP work item in Release 16 of the 5G NR standard to make 5G work also in the unlicensed 6 GHz band. As far as spectrum liberalization is a step along the road, much of the hard work to clear the way has been done already, and old blockages are disappearing already in the rear-view mirror.

This article is continue here.

Five steps on the road to industrial 5G – technology / standards (step #1)
Five steps on the road to industrial 5G – spectrum / regulation (step #2)
Five steps on the road to industrial 5G – licences / fees (step #3)

Five steps on the road to industrial 5G – (step #4)
Five steps on the road to industrial 5G – (step #5)

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