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Consultation on the Way Forward for the Future Use of the Band 872 - 876 MHz Paired with 917 - 921 MHz in the United Kingdom
www.ofcom.org.uk

Following recent amendments to the European GSM Directive, the UK’s telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched a consultation on the future use of the 872-876 MHz band paired with 917-921 MHz. The consultation, which will close on 3 November, in particular concerns technical conditions related to the release of the 900 MHz band for use by the UMTS family of mobile broadband technologies.

Introduction
1.1 Ofcom has now re-activated its programme of work on the bands 872 876 MHz paired with 917 921 MHz (the 872/917 MHz bands) following a period during which it has been on hold in view of work on other spectrum awards. Since we last consulted on the band on 11 April 2006 (-1-) (the April 2006 Consultation) there have been some significant changes in circumstances which could impact on the way in which this band might best be released. In particular:

 

  • We need to consider the future use of the 900 MHz band by UMTS (-2-) as a consequence of work in Europe on amendments to the GSM Directive, Council Directive 87/372/EEC (-3-) and our own work on liberalising 900 MHz (-4-) and the governments proposals in the Digital Britain Report (-5-). The possible implications of this are that transmission power in the 917 - 921 MHz band will need to be reduced and/or that better (and consequentially more expensive) filtering will be required in at least parts of the UMTS900 band;
  • Greater interest in using the band for SRD (Short Range Devices) / RFID (Radio Frequency Identity Devices).

1.2 We now consider there are two general approaches to authorising use of the 872/917 MHz bands that may be suitable:

  • A full licensing approach: under which a single or limited number of licences are awarded e.g. a national wide area licence that would support a wide area / network application such as mobile broadband type use, awarded via an auction;
  • A light regulatory approach: in which individual transmitters are authorised without limitation on their numbers, e.g. suitable for SRD / RFID use (either under a licence exempt regime, or under a light licensing regime).

1.3 In consequence, there now exists a more open question as to which approach to follow. The purpose of this new consultation is therefore to gather input from stakeholders that will inform our approach to the manner in which these bands should be released. In particular, we are seeking stakeholder views on:

  • The technical conditions that would need to apply to the 872/917 MHz bands, both for the full licensing approach and for the light regulatory approach;
  • The candidate uses for the band and the suitability of each approach, taking account of any associated technical conditions, and the potential values associated with these candidate uses (this will help to inform our assessment of whether a full licence approach or a light regulatory approach is likely to provide greater benefits to citizens and consumers).

1.4 These issues will influence a future decision on the appropriate authorisation approach in order to provide any necessary protection to existing and future adjacent band users e.g. GSM900 and UMTS900 services.

Technical conditions under a full licensing approach
1.5 Our current technical analysis is based on the initial view that, in order to comply with the EC Directive amending the current GSM Directive, the power limit in the 917 921 MHz band needs to be set at a level that would not unduly hinder use of the neighbouring spectrum for UMTS900.
1.6 In the band 872 876 MHz we propose that devices with performance equivalent to a current GSM mobile station (-6-) will give sufficient protection to adjacent band services.

1.7 Our technical analysis shows that if standard performance, as described in A6.61 A6.62, is applied to a UMTS base station receive channel at 910 915 MHz (as with other UMTS900 channels), then the power level in the 917 921 MHz band would need to be restricted to a level lower than the levels previously consulted upon. We propose these powers could be in the range of 19 27 dBm EIRP. An alternative approach would be for the 910 - 915 MHz UMTS base station to be fitted with improved filtering, as described in A6.68. This would afford better protection from signals in the band 917 - 921 MHz and therefore allow higher powers in the 917 921 MHz band (A6.64 to A6.71 sets out an example that would allow 50dBm EIRP).

1.8 Higher power use of the 872/917 MHz bands could increase the value of this band but at the cost of requiring improved filtering of UMTS900 base stations. If this increased value is greater than the cost of the improved filtering needed, then allowing higher power use should be considered. In this case, we would also need to consider where the potential additional cost of improved filtering of UMTS base stations should fall (on the 872/917 MHz band operator or the future UMTS900 operator).

Technical conditions under a light regulatory approach
1.9 For a light regulatory approach, Ofcoms initial view is that, because of the fragmented nature of deployment this approach might encourage (i.e. the potential for multiple licensees to be distributed more or less randomly across the country), the only viable option would be for the 872/917 MHz band users to bear the burden of protecting adjacent users. This is likely to be best achieved through the technical constraints imposed. If viable technical constraints imply that relatively large separation distances are necessary in order to protect adjacent band users then our preference should be for a light licensing approach. On the other hand, if the separation distances are relatively small, then our preference should be for a licence exemption approach.

1.10 We have conducted an initial technical analysis to derive the possible technical conditions that could support SRD/RFID use of the band. This analysis is provisional as the characteristics for SRD / RFID have been taken from the ETSI system reference documents (-7-)(-8-) that set out ETSIs proposals for this type of service and are still under consideration in Europe.

1.11 We consider that the use of the band for applications such as SRD / RFID is feasible under a light regulatory approach, it should be possible to adopt a licence exempt approach for SRDs. But potential interference into GSM900, GSM-R and UMTS900 base stations from RFID devices may be a factor to be taken account of when deciding whether RFIDs should be licence exempt or light licensed.

1.12 Ofcom has made provisional estimates of approximate separation distances from an RFID installation to cellular base stations and GSM-R mobile stations. This analysis will require further assessment as and when the relevant equipment characteristics become better known. As noted above, further technical analysis on the size of the separation distances will influence which type of light regulatory approach may be appropriate.

Timing
1.13 Ofcom invites written views and comments on the issues raised in this document, to be made by 5pm on 3 November 2009.

Footnotes

1. Award of available spectrum: 872 - 876 MHz paired with 917 - 921 MHz published 11 April 2006

2. Liberlisation would allow the band to be used for UMTS and other technologies. For the purposes of this consultation protection of UMTS has been used to create the technical licence conditions. UMTS was chosen as it is felt to give the best proxy for the future use (i.e. if the technical conditions are set using UMTS they should also protect future technologies such as LTE). The use of UMTS aligns with the technical work carried out in the Application of spectrum liberalisation and trading to the mobile sector consultation published February 2009.

3. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2008:0762:FI N:EN:PDF

4. Application of spectrum liberalisation and trading to the mobile sector published 20 September 2007 - http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/liberalisation/ ; and Application of spectrum liberalisation and trading to the mobile sector published 13 February 2009 - http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/spectrumlib/

5.-See http://www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/broadcasting/6216.aspx and paragraphs 2.28 and 2.68 below

6.-3GPP TS 45.005 3rd Generation Partnership Project; Technical Specification Group GSM/EDGE Radio Access Network; Radio transmission and reception (Release 8), http://www.3gpp.org/specifications

7. TR 102 649-1 V1.1.1 (2007-04) Technical Report, Electromagnetic compatibility, and Radio spectrum Matters (ERM); Technical characteristics of RFID in the UHF Band; System Reference Document for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) equipment; Part 1: RFID equipment operating in the range from 865 MHz to 868 MHz.

8.
ETSI TR 102 649-2 V1.1.1 (2008-09), Technical Report, Electromagnetic compatibility and Radio spectrum Matters (ERM); Technical characteristics of Short Range Devices (SRD) and RFID in the UHF Band; System Reference Document for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and SRD equipment; Part 2: Additional spectrum requirements for UHF RFID, non-specific SRD and specific SRD.