Rivada’s wholesale wireless project joined by top UK spectrum and 5G expert

Former UK regulator David Hendon has joined Rivada Networks ‘to pursue UK opportunities’ for the company’s open-access wireless project.

The move comes just as the UK begins to take decisions on its 5G spectrum policy. Hendon was CEO of the UK’s Radiocommunications Agency from 1998 to 2002, when it managed Britain’s radio spectrum – and raised £22.5 billion in 2000 by auctioning five 3G mobile licences.

Since then he has been a civil servant at the UK government’s main business department and has advised Ofcom, the telecoms regulator that took over from the Radiocommunications Agency and other agencies.

“Rivada’s open-access wireless technology will transform the way spectrum is managed and used, not just in the UK, but around the world,” Hendon said. “I’ve seen first-hand the old ways that governments allocated this vital resource, and I’m excited to get involved in shaping the future of spectrum use with Rivada.”

For the past four years he has chaired the strategic advisory board of the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre, the main UK’s focus for 5G mobile research.

Capacity understands from Rivada that he will continue his role at the University of Surrey. “For now, he will be dividing his time between us and Surrey,” Brian Carney, senior vice president for corporate communications at Rivada Networks, told us.

Open-access wireless technology was a key element in Rivada’s two failed bids a year ago – first, to build a nationwide 4G shared network, Red Compartida, for Mexico, and second to build a 4G first-responder network for the US. Included in both proposals was the idea that spectrum could be shared dynamically between wholesale users.

A Mexican company, Altán, won the Red Compartida bid, and AT&T won the FirstNet first responder bid.

Hendon is clearly a spectrum expert. When Ofcom hired him in 2011 as a part-time adviser the regulator described him as “one of the country’s most senior officials with experience of the communications sectors”, and said he would advise “on the clearance of valuable bands of radio spectrum in preparation for what will be the UK’s largest spectrum auction in 2012”. That auction actually happened in 2013.

Ganley said about the appointment: “Ofcom has always been a leading regulator strong on innovation and Rivada looks forward to bringing our technology to the UK spectrum market. Rivada will help unlock and enable the power of future 5G networks in line with the UK government’s stated ambitions.”

Ofcom was hoping to hold an auction for 5G spectrum by the end of 2017, but legal action by BT and Three UK means it is unlikely to take place until 2018 at the earliest.

Dave Dyson, CEO of Three UK, said in August 2017 that “Ofcom has said it does not expect commercial deployment of 5G until 2020. The setting of standards for frequency bands will not be completed until 2019.”

That means Hendon, who will be a senior vice president, has joined Rivada at what could be a crucial time to have a few influential words in the ears of his former colleagues in Ofcom.