Europe ‘plans to give enterprises their own 5G spectrum’

28 January 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Europe will reserve mobile spectrum for 5G enterprise users, allowing them to build networks without using traditional operators, Capacity understands.

The plans are likely to be revealed in a upcoming report from the European Commission – possibly before Mobile World Congress (MWC), which takes place at the end of February.

Sources close to the Commission have told Capacity that the European Union’s executive arm “wants the lowest possible barriers to entry” for 5G services for both operators and vertical industry sectors.

The would indicate the Commission is following a German precedent from last year. In September 2018 Matthias Kurth, the former president of Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA), the German telecoms regulator, told a conference in Munich that Germany is to allocate 100MHz of spectrum in its 2019 auction for 5G to large industries so they can build their own networks and bypass licensed mobile operators.

The spectrum, in the 3.4-3.8GHz band, is expected to be taken up by companies such as BMW, Bosch and Siemens, said Kurth, who was president of BNetzA for 11 years and is now executive chairman of Cable Europe, a cable industry lobbying group.

“The spectrum will be reserved for German industry, so industry can build its own networks,” Kurth said. Spectrum will be allocated “by a beauty contest not an auction”, he added.

It’s not yet clear what services industry might use for its future 5G spectrum, but companies may look for applications in areas such as smart metering and autonomous vehicles.

Now Capacity’s sources indicate that the policy has found favour at European Commission level. Last week the Commission adopted a policy to harmonise the radio spectrum in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band for future 5G use. This is so that member states can reorganise and allow the use of that band for 5G systems by 31 December 2020. (The impact on the UK depends on whether Brexit happens and on whether, if it does happen, there are transitional arrangements.)

But the enterprise allocation of 5G spectrum is likely to generate howls of anguish from mobile operators in all member states if the opportunity is taken up by industrial companies.

The move is, however, likely to be welcomed by manufacturers such as Ericsson and Nokia which will see additional revenue opportunities. Nokia is already active in the enterprise 4G market: last year it announced it was building a private LTE network that will connect 75,000 customers of Brazilian energy company Elektro, connecting smart meters and other equipment on the 3.5GHz band.