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First European Workshop on 5G Spectrum Planning

On 13th November the European Commission held its first workshop on spectrum planning for 5G to discuss spectrum challenges for 5G including usage aspects, technical, and regulatory needs - it was On 13th November the European Commission held its first workshop on spectrum planning for 5G to discuss spectrum challenges for 5G including usage aspects, technical, and regulatory needs - it was attended by representatives from national regulators, industry, and research. This update sets out a few of the key comments made by the speakers.

 

Roberto Viola - Deputy Director-General of the European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology - expressed that this workshop was very timely, given that policy-makers now understand the importance of spectrum policy and the types of service that are required to support new technologies and usage. The goal he expressed is greater co-operation between European member states in the future and the use of harmonised Europe-wide measures, rather than regulators acting within national silos. He would like to see Europe becoming a world leader when it comes to spectrum policy.

5G does not describe any particular specification at this time, but is a blend of a number of different technologies, which may include new radio access technologies, and existing wireless networks such as GSM, HSPA, LTE, and Wi-Fi. According to Mr Viola, it is yet to be defined accurately when it comes to policy in Europe. He recalls that when frequency planning for 4G was conducted, it was not planned effectively - this has led to distractions. He hopes that when it comes to 5G a greater degree of international co-operation and planning will be achieved, as there will be no 5G without effective spectrum planning.

The Commission would like to see 1.2GHz of bandwidth to be allocated to mobile telecommunications for 5G – this will include both licensed spectrum and shared (unlicensed) spectrum. In particular, it intends to recycle the 700MHz band which is currently used in the mobile industry and for digital terrestrial television broadcasting, and this process is already beginning in the United Kingdom. Spectrum sharing in the 2.3GHz band will also be vital, facilitated by advanced technology in devices, as well as by an appropriate legal framework. The Commission would like to see harmonisation within the 3.4GHz band, and intends to discuss this at future World Radio Conferences. It expects to see the upper part of the C-Band (3.8GHz-4.2GHz) remaining allocated to satellite systems, which play an important role globally. Mr Viola also suggested that higher frequency regions of the spectrum, and in particular the 60-80GHz band, could be serious candidates for some close proximity applications.

His personal vision for 5G is about quality of experience – for example, a seamless transition between transmitters (from larger cells, to smaller cells, to pico-cells, to nano-cells) – and he would like to see networks and infrastructure designed in a very different way to support the quality of experience. He sees sharing and layering as being the new norm using cognitive radio access technology and smart layer selection.

 

Karl-Heinz Laudan - Vice President of Spectrum Policy and Projects at Deutche Telekom AG - gave his views on the anticipated use of 5G. Data components of transmissions have become more and more important over the last few years, overtaking the voice elements in mobile telecommunications, and will change further to become more machine-centric as the 'Internet of Things' develops. Much of this data will be video-streaming, including non-linear broadcasting, but this is unlikely to be the whole story and there will be a wide range of data traffic sources in use, all of which will have different requirements. These requirements will be much more than just higher speed with lower latency. For example, incredible speeds (bitrates); ubiquitous device access (wide coverage); great service in crowds (bandwidth in areas of high demand); best experience following you (seamlessness); and reliable real-time connections (always on), are all anticipated to be central to the success of 5G.

Mr Laudan considers that the earlier existing technologies (2G, 3G) may fall away and the spectrum be reallocated to 5G, and that LTE/4G could be integrated into 5G, so that all mobile telecommunications in the future would be transmitted via 5G. He believes that spectrum demand on backhaul will need to be considered, and that small cells in ultra-dense networks will require a new concept for wireless backhauling. He also feels that with proper planning there is now an opportunity for harmonisation globally for a 5G band.

 

Peter Olsen of DIGITALEUROPE - a membership organisation for national trade associations and corporates representing the digital technology industry in Europe - highlighted how the pace of change has quickened and that timescales for increasing capacity are crucial. He reiterated the importance of identifying and understanding the use cases discussed by Mr Laudan, and designing the network accordingly whilst incorporating other advances in technology. In addition to the physical infrastructure, he also stressed the importance of cloud infrastructure and virtualisation due to the applications which are being developed. A further vital element which he emphasised is the need to keep sustainability and security on the agenda.

 

Darko Ratkaj of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) spoke of media services in the context of 5G, and how broadcasters may use the new 5G networks. Whilst linear radio and television are still the core proposition for most broadcasters, there are now a multitude of options which are not bound by channel schedules and channel formats, in high quality formats supported by digital (as opposed to analogue) technologies. Media is delivered to audiences via broadcast networks (DTT, satellite, and cable), and also broadband – including fixed networks (such as IPTV and OTT) and mobile networks which will include 5G when it is introduced. Mr Ratkaj suggests that there is no one network to rule them all, as none of these delivery methods will be accessible to all users at all times. Therefore, 5G will need to work alongside the other delivery methods to effectively serve all possible audiences.

Media distribution networks must be assessed by technical capability, reach, costs, and the ability to guarantee the prominence of services. The EBU believes that 5G can help broadcasters deliver to small devices, but is not currently in a position to state the direction on which 5G should take – whether to support only broadband delivery, or having wider implications on broadcast delivery. From the EBU's perspective however, the enablement of linear broadcast remains its key concern.

Mr Ratkaj believes it is vital that the design and construction of the 5G specification and infrastructure must follow policy, and not the reverse.

 

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