‘One-size-fits-all’ doesn’t fit the mobile network of the future, experts insist

The coming 5G revolution is an opportunity to move beyond the United Kingdom’s one-size-fits-all spectrum approach that has left many residents, rural areas, transport corridors, factories and businesses left behind, claim experts in a newly published discussion paper.

The report, produced by the University of Surrey along with the Worcestershire 5G Consortium and partners from the UK’s DCMS 5G Testbed and Trials programme, argues that competition and public financing will not be enough to fill the coverage gaps found in previous mobile internet generations. Without serious and imaginative thought as to how the four main spectrum bands could be used (700 MHz, 3.4 to 3.8 GHz, 26GHz and 57 to 71 GHz), the promise of 5G may not be fully realised.

The report makes three key recommendations to prevent industry, government and academia repeating the mistakes of the past. The recommendations are:

  • Invest in further innovations, test beds and trials to explore innovative options for spectrum usage in rural areas.
  • Explore different approaches to and models of spectrum management and licensing for bands that cover high population areas versus those that serve challenging locations such as rural and transport corridors.
  • Engage with Ofcom’s consultation on enabling opportunities for innovation in shared access to spectrum supporting mobile technology.

Through the adoption of these significant recommendations, 5G services could contribute £7bn to the UK economy, with an additional £3bn per year from a secondary supply chain by 2026.

The report was produced as part of the UK’s 5G Testbed and Trials programme– a government initiative to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of the coming 5G revolution. Three of the six 5G testbeds projects contributed to the report, along with the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC). The three testbeds were AutoAir, which is testing transport use cases; 5G RuralFirst, which is assessing the use of 5G to enhance rural communities; and the Worcestershire 5G Testbed, which is analysing industrial use cases of 5G.

Regius Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Founder of the 5GIC at the University of Surrey, said: “We are obviously excited about 5G, but we are determined that the technologies benefit as many communities as possible in our country. There has been huge innovation in 5G technologies – we also need innovation in usage of scarce and precious spectrum.  The points raised in this discussion paper are important and should be used as a starting point for open dialogue between businesses and regulators for the benefit of all, taking into account the important role of mobile network operators and their massive contributions to economy and society.”

Mark Stansfeld, Chair of the Worcestershire 5G Testbed, comments: “The Worcestershire 5G Consortium is a prime example of public and private sectors working together with MNOs to create the type of collaborative environment required to exploit 5G. 5G innovation will drive forward productivity and the British economy and I am proud that the Worcestershire 5G Consortium is helping to create a connected, creative and dynamic economy for businesses.”

David Crawford from 5G RuralFirst said: “5G provides an opportunity to look at new ways of doing things, so that 5G becomes more than simply an extension of 4G. This paper highlights the need for innovative approaches to the management of spectrum, including hybrid approaches that encompass both licensed and licence-exempt spectrum sharing, to address the needs and aspirations of communities and businesses in ways that 4G, 3G, and 2G have not been able to do.”

To download the report, visit the UK5G website here.