Fixed Wireless Access “crucial” for meeting broadband targets

18 July 2018

Ofcom needs to consider new approaches to spectrum management to realise the full possibilities of 5G across the country, according to the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA).

In a recently published report jointly compiled with the UK Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, INCA discusses the role independent networks will play in realising the government’s broadband targets, especially in rural areas where investment in full fibre will take much longer to realise.

It believes Fixed Wireless Access can play a crucial role in delivering high-speed broadband nationwide.

“The way spectrum is currently managed means that large parts of the UK won’t get access to services promised by the big operators which tend to be the winners in the national spectrum auctions,” says INCA CEO Malcolm Corbett. “This means much of the spectrum is likely to sit unused when it could be used to connect entire communities in rural and hard-to-reach locations.”

According to the association, the way spectrum is currently auctioned grants organisations exclusive use of parts of the spectrum with no obligation to use it. It says the proposed upcoming auctions of spectrum in the 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz band envisages national licences that are likely to be purchased by large mobile companies for use in urban 5G rollouts over the next 10 years. 

“With access to the new spectrum band, wireless broadband operators could install superfast and even ultrafast broadband to millions of properties quickly and at a low cost. But this cannot happen without a change in how spectrum is allocated,” says Corbett.

The report calls for Ofcom to consider allocating spectrum on a geographical basis. It says major operators should bid for valuable chunks in areas where it is economic for them to deploy networks, while other players should be allowed to purchase the usage rights of remaining spectrum in more challenging areas, where wireless broadband operators deploy services.