So-called ‘5G’ mobile communications will use a very high frequency part of the spectrum above 6 GHz. This could support a variety of new uses including holographic projections and 3D medical imaging, with the potential to support very high demand users in busy areas, such as city centres. 5G mobile is expected to deliver extremely fast data speeds – perhaps 10 to 50 Gbit/s – compared with today’s average 4G download speed of 15 Mbit/s. 5G services are likely to use large blocks of spectrum to achieve these speeds, which are difficult to find at lower frequencies.
The timeframe for the launch of 5G services is uncertain, although commercial applications could emerge by 2020, subject to research and development and international agreements for aligning frequency bands. Ofcom says it is important to do the groundwork now, to understand how these frequencies might be used to serve citizens and consumers in the future. The regulator is therefore asking industry to help plan for the spectrum and bandwidth requirements of 5G.
The spectrum above 6 GHz currently supports various uses – from scientific research, to satellite broadcasting and weather monitoring. One of Ofcom’s core roles is to manage the limited supply of spectrum, taking into account the current and future demands to allow these different services to exist alongside each other.
Steve Unger, Ofcom’s Acting Chief Executive: “We want the UK to be a leader in the next generation of wireless communications. Working with industry, we want to lay the foundations for the UK’s next generation of wireless communications.
“5G must deliver a further step change in the capacity of wireless networks – over and above that currently being delivered by 4G. No network has infinite capacity, but we need to move closer to the ideal of there always being sufficient capacity to meet consumers’ needs.”
Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Group Director, comments: “We want to explore how high frequency spectrum could potentially offer significant capacity for extremely fast 5G mobile data. This could pave the way for innovative new mobile services for UK consumers and businesses.”
These innovations, according to Ofcom, might include real-time holographic technologies, allowing relatives to virtually attend family gatherings. Or they could enable specialist surgeons to oversee hospital operations while located on the other side of the world, using 3D medical imaging.
Ofcom is seeking views on the use of spectrum above 6 GHz that might be suitable for future mobile communication services. The closing date for responses is 27th February 2015.