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Rural 5G Spectrum: Experiences & Futures

Our Rural 5G event in Lincoln on March 26, chaired by Daniel Heery (pictured above), brought together about 30 network operators, government officials and policymakers from around the country to discuss how 5G could be delivered more effectively in rural areas across the UK. The lessons coming out of the 5G Testbeds 5GRIT and 5G Rural First grounded the audience in the current practical experience and challenges of deploying systems. They also pointed tantalisingly at the applications for rural areas promised by a 5G rural future.

Having covered the on-the-ground realities of 5G in a rural context the discussion then moved to the allocation of spectrum, and potential models for “fallow” spectrum not used by the main mobile operators to be re-used in rural areas to deliver better fixed wireless broadband.

Stephen TempleIn particular Stephen Temple, (pictured left) from the IET, covered their "Further Faster" model:

"The IET 5G Further Faster model improves upon the Ofcom proposal for spectrum loans by changing the process from case-by-case to "prior approval" in all those areas of the country where MNOs (mobile network operators) have no current or future plans to roll out 5G. The IET 5G-FF model also proposes MNOs should be rewarded for loaning their spectrum by being entitled to access 15% of the capacity generated by the loaned spectrum for their own use. It is hoped that the mutual interest this would generate might lead, in many cases, to commercial deals that allow the loan of the spectrum for a secure long period of time."

The seminar concluded in agreement that there is clearly a lot to play for with rural 5G. The more that INCA network providers can engage with the policy discussions about spectrum, the more likely there will be opportunities down the line.

Nigel King, CTO of Cambium Networks commented after the session: "It is very important to realise that there are multiple different views on how the [spectrum] sharing should be handled. Ofcom do not appear to be having this type of meeting where the “stakeholders” get together and discuss possible solutions, and yet they are writing the policy as both poacher and gamekeeper. Usually when this happens something that is basically a good idea (sharing spectrum in a geographically focussed manner) will fail."

"The MNO needs protection and so do the FWA operators and mobile extension operators. The requirements of each to run their businesses profitably need to be understood."

The forthcoming series of INCA events focussing on a Rural Gigabit Future will include further coverage of the role of 5G and other technologies.

See the event details here.