Laying the foundations for ‘5G’ mobile

16 January 2015

Ofcom is today calling on industry to help lay the foundations for the UK’s next generation of wireless communications.

So-called ‘5G’ mobile communications are expected to be able to use very high frequency spectrum - the raw material that underpins wireless services.

This spectrum, which is above 6 GHz, could support a variety of uses, ranging from financial trading and entertainment to gaming and holographic projections, with the potential to support very high demand users in busy areas, like city centres.

5G mobile is expected to be capable of delivering extremely fast data speeds - perhaps 10 to 50 Gbit/s - compared with today’s average 4G download speed of 15 Mbit/s. holophone-text

5G services are likely to use large blocks of spectrum to achieve the fastest speeds, which are difficult to find at lower frequencies. Therefore, higher frequency bands, above 6 GHz, for example, will be important.

Planning for the future

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. It is important that Ofcom does the groundwork now to understand how these frequencies might be used to serve citizens and consumers in future. Ofcom is today asking industry to help plan for the future spectrum requirements of 5G.

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 current and future demands and allowing these different services to exist alongside each other.

Steve Unger, Ofcom Acting Chief Executive, said: “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, said: “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.” 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 27 February 2015.

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ENDS

Notes for Editors

  1. This forward looking work on future 5G services is being carried out in parallel with a range of other work on mobile services including, in particular, work to improve the coverage of existing mobile networks. Ofcom is supporting the Government’s initiatives, including the £150m mobile infrastructure project to fund mobile phone masts in uncovered areas, and ensuring the four major networks deliver 90% voice and text services for consumers by 2017.
  2. Ofcom has already started considering a number of bands below 6 GHz that might be suitable for future mobile systems, including 5G, as part of the Mobile Data Strategy. 5G is likely to make use of existing mobile bands, aggregated with new bands. Ofcom’s long standing policy is to liberalise all mobile licences so as to remove regulatory barriers to deployment of the latest available mobile technology
  3. By using spectrum above 6 GHz, 5G services could offer higher efficiency and significantly faster mobile data services through wider bandwidth channels, allowing a higher volume of data to reach wireless devices.
  4. The University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) has stated a 5G vision of ‘always having sufficient rate to give the user the impression of infinite capacity’ and preliminary figures being discussed within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), suggest peak data rates in the range from 10 - 50 Gbit/s and latency of 1 millisecond.
  5. Ofcom's principal duty under the Communications Act 2003 is to further the interests of citizens, and the interests of consumers where appropriate by promoting competition. Ofcom is also required to secure the optimal use for wireless telegraphy of the electro-magnetic spectrum.