Press release: New approach to spectrum licensing in the 26 GHz band

Real Wireless report for the UK Spectrum Policy Forum on a new approach to spectrum licensing in the 26 GHz band

A new licensing model for the 26 GHz band to drive innovation and support digital transformation of industry.

The UK’s Spectrum Policy Forum (SPF) today published a report from Real Wireless that illustrates the feasibility of a new approach to the licensing of the 26 GHz band in the UK.

The 26 GHz spectrum band inherently has a short range and offers access to bandwidths of 1 GHz or more.

The Real Wireless report proposes a new licensing model that ‘democratises’ spectrum access in the 26 GHz band, optimising the use of limited resources while enabling innovation, and supporting private investment in the provision of local broadband in “non dense urban” areas. At the same time, the new licensing model supports investment by mobile operators to remain ahead of mobile broadband congestion in the areas where it is most likely to arise.

Building on the framework initially proposed by the UK SPF, the Real Wireless report draws conclusions in four key areas:

  • The 26 GHz band should be available for the exclusive use of national mobile network operators only where data traffic congestion is most likely to occur. Our independent assessment based on coverage data of 2 million UK smartphone users from Tutela Technologies, indicates this would be in approximately 1% of the UK’s land area.
  • The award mechanism for the exclusive licences in the high-demand zone needs to be proportionate considering its complexity, time, effort, and effectiveness.
  • Over the rest of the country, this spectrum should be available to all potential users on a first come, first served basis.
  • Any unused spectrum could be pooled (termed “club spectrum”) and the first user to arrive can use all of it to boost quality of service until another user wishes to deploy at that location.

The combination of non-exclusive use over most of the country and the “club spectrum” feature delivers a substantial improvement in spectrum efficiency for the 26 GHz band, given that such frequencies have inherently short range.

Real Wireless believes all these options should be considered in the future management of the 5G pioneer band at 26 GHz.

The insights from the study have facilitated the UK SPF in arriving at several recommendations that you can find here. The recommendations in this document culminate in a hybrid licensing model which the UK SPF believes provides the best mix of certainty of access and flexibility.

David Meyer, Chair of UK SPF commented ‘This study exceeded our expectations. The insights from the Real Wireless study have enabled the existing UK SPF model to be validated and fine-tuned. We are delighted to welcome the report and look forward to discussing our recommendations with DCMS and Ofcom in due course.

The project lead Dr. Abhaya Sumanasena notes ‘Real Wireless is pleased to complete this study that has provided insights into the opportunity for a fresh approach to licensing in the 26 GHz band. This is one of the 5G pioneer bands across Europe and is harmonised globally. We believe the insights and findings of this innovative approach to licensing could accelerate the spectrum award process and result in a more efficient use of spectrum.’  

Notes to editors

About UK Spectrum Policy Forum (SPF)

Set up at the request of government and Ofcom the Spectrum Policy Forum (SPF) act as a pro-active industry-led ‘sounding board’ to UK Government and Ofcom on future policy and approaches on spectrum and a cross-industry ‘agent’ for promoting the role of spectrum in society and the maximisation of its economic and social value to the UK. We do this by exchanging news and views on developments in using spectrum, drawing on our industry expertise from around the world.

Media Contact:  Margherita Certo –

About Real Wireless

Real Wireless is the world’s leading independent wireless advisory firm. We bridge the gap between the wireless industry and wireless users. We help the wireless industry to better understand and meet the needs of its customers and help wireless users to get the best from wireless to the benefit of their business.

Real Wireless clients benefit from a comprehensive portfolio of specialists and custom tools that analyse radio network performance, techno-economic impact and the business model implications of wireless systems. With this unmatched resource Real Wireless is able to advise the industry and all user groups, spanning businesses to governments, mobile operators, regulators and technology companies on every aspect of wireless technology.

That is why, with 5G now being deployed, Real Wireless is best placed to guide and advise businesses on the choices and opportunities next generation communications systems will bring.

About Tutela

Tutela Technologies Ltd. is an independent crowdsourced data company with a global panel of over 300 million smartphone users, including over 2 million users in the United Kingdom. Tutela gathers information on mobile infrastructure and tests wireless experience and usage, helping organizations in the mobile industry to understand and improve networks. Data and insights provided by Tutela are trusted by the engineering teams at mobile network operators and network equipment manufacturers around the world and are used to compare operators as well as inform decisions in network and infrastructure planning and optimization. The organization is headquartered in Victoria, British Columbia.

Tutela does not collect any sensitive personal data and is compliant with international privacy regulations including GDPR. Tutela’s privacy policies and practices have been reviewed by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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