Ofcom has made prime mobile spectrum available in four bands via shared access licences which are low cost and straightforward to apply for.
In July 2019 Ofcom published a statement on Enabling wireless innovation through local licensing, in which they explained how providing local access to bands used for mobile technology would support growth and innovation across a wide range of sectors. Some months later Ofcom then went on to introduce a simple scheme whereby anyone can apply for shared access to:
- 1800 MHz band (2 x 3.3 MHz)
- 2300 MHz band (10MHz)
- 3800 to 4200 MHz band (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 80 and 100 MHz)
- 24.25-26.5 GHz (50, 100, 200 MHz)
The permitted bandwidths available for each band are indicated in brackets.
Low power licences are available for all bands and these allow power levels of up to 24 dBm / carrier (EIRP). Meanwhile high power licences permit base station power levels of up to as much as 42 dBm / carrier (EIRP). There is some variance depending upon the band and carrier bandwidth, and for detailed information on technical conditions, please see the Shared access licence guidance.
Medium power licences allow a single base station to be operated at a fixed location, while a low power licence authorises users to deploy as many base stations as they require within a circular area with a radius of 50 metres.
The cost is £80/year for a channel of 2 x 3.3MHz or 10MHz, increasing up to £800/year for a 100MHz channel. The application process is relatively straightforward, payment can be made online, and we have seen a start-to-finish turnaround time of only a few weeks (although it’s possible that things may take a little longer given present circumstances).
The Shared access licensing scheme is a welcome development and part of a wider global move towards providing greater access to spectrum, such as the CBRS band in the US. This is excellent news for the industry and end users alike, which together with low cost, fully software-defined solutions such as the LimeNET base station family, will herald a new era in wireless innovation.