Three UK seeks licence changes to broaden 5G FWA services

UK Broadband's owner Three UK (Hutchison 3G) has written to Ofcom, requesting to make changes to its licence that will enable it to improve and expand its 5G FWA services.

UK Broadband's current 3.9 GHz licence authorises use of the 3925–4009 MHz frequency range.

The changes would allow the operator to deploy a dual-band massive MIMO solution capable of supporting with 3.4-3.8GHz and 3.9GHz band.

Ofcom responded, saying it had reviewed Hutchison 3G's request and it is proposing to vary the technical terms in the 3.9GHz licence in line with Hutchison 3G's request to support 5G technology. The regulator believes such a move can provide additional benefits to consumers without creating harmful interference for other spectrum users. Ofcom has also identified an opportunity to update the terms of access to 3.9 GHz spectrum to better align with its policy objectives for the wider 3.8–4.2 GHz band.

The regulator is proposing to clarify how Hutchison 3G can reserve spectrum under its 3.9 GHz licence, consistent with the first-come-first-served, shared framework for all users in the 3.8–4.2 GHz band. Specifically, it is proposing to introduce a requirement for Hutchison 3G to use the spectrum assignments that it requests. This is like the requirement already in place for shared access users in the band. Ofcom will phase in this requirement over five years.

The regulator is also proposing to change the technical assumptions used for coordinating Hutchison 3G with shared access users. These changes will reduce the area "sterilised by each of H3G’s assignments". Ofcom said that Hutchison 3G has around 26,000 assignments (at almost 9,000 locations across the UK) in the 3.9 GHz spectrum. "These assignments are currently not in use and prevent other users from accessing this spectrum," said the regulator.

The regulator has subsequently launched a consultation, seeking views from interested or affected parties on this by 15 July 2024 and plans to publish its final decision in Q4 2024.

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