Ofcom sets out vision for hybrid sharing of 6GHz spectrum

Ofcom has set out its vision for how shared use of the upper 6GHz spectrum band could enable both Wi-Fi and mobile services, while continuing to serve the band's existing users.

In response to the ever-increasing use of data and demands on radio spectrum, the regulator launched a consultation in July 2023 to consider innovative ways of ensuring that it is used as efficiently as possible.

It looked at an approach that would allow both Wi-Fi and mobile services to share spectrum in the upper 6GHz band, known as 'hybrid sharing'. This would be the first time Wi-Fi and licensed mobile technologies share spectrum extensively.

Ofcom has put forward two possible approaches that could form part of a sharing framework – a variable spectrum split and an indoor/outdoor split.

The variable spectrum split would enable Wi-Fi and mobile to use any part of the band where the other is not deployed, but have sections of it each one are prioritised in. This could be achieved by each technology transmitting a specific signal so they can sense and avoid each other.

The indoor/outdoor split is based on the fact that Wi-Fi routers tend to be indoors to serve a particular household, whereas mobile base stations are mostly located outdoors to provide coverage to a wider area. The band could be managed to prioritise the indoor use of Wi-Fi while also prioritising mobile use outdoors.

Ofcom said that it was working with industry to develop a hybrid sharing framework and the necessary coexistence solutions. It is also collaborating with other European regulators, with a technical report on the topic scheduled to be published in 2025.

Earlier this month, Ofcom welcomed a range of technology companies and European regulators to a workshop on the topic. The ideas discussed by the approximately 70 participants will help the regulator to further refine its thinking.

The UK Government’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology is also funding several trials until March 2025 to look at new spectrum-sharing techniques, which should provide it with further insights.

Ofcom will set out further details in 2025 on how it intends to make the upper 6GHz band available and will consult before making any decisions on future use of the band.


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