France opens 5G pilot window

In France, the Government has launched a public consultation as part of the process of devising a national strategy for 5G, with comms regulator Autorité de régulation des communications éléctroniques et des postes (Arcep) opening up a window for conducting 5G pilots.

According to Arcep, two frequency bands appear to stand out in Europe. In France, Arcep has not yet allocated these bands to mobile networks.

  • The 3400 – 3800 MHz band – about which Arcep held a consultation in March 2017 – is generally viewed as the ‘core’ 5G band: it offers large channels enabling high bitrates, has a certain degree of technological maturity and will be available in the near future in the vast majority of European countries;
  • The 26 GHz band, which is part of the new generation of millimetre-wave bands, and will enable unprecedented speeds: it still lacks technological maturity but remains of great interest for the 5G ecosystem as it will open the way for disruptive technologies.

To allow all players along the 5G value chain to explore use cases and the challenges of this new generation, Arcep is opening up a ‘5G pilot’ window, 5G@arcep.fr, whose purpose is to help in the implementation of a national strategy for 5G. This window serves multiple objectives:

To unify all of the players along the value chain

5G is often touted as the generation that will be able to satisfy the connectivity needs of a wide variety of uses, from the public Internet to critical industrial internet communications, by way of the ambient communications of a ubiquitous Internet of Things.

Conducting 5G pilots should help deepen a general understanding of the systems for cohabitation between players, and test out business models: giving the entire 5G value chain the ability to tackle the issues surrounding these future networks under real world conditions, beyond simply obtaining a technical validation of network equipment.

Operators, as well as future professional users of the band, often referred to as ‘verticals’, should be able to work together on these pilots. Arcep’s ‘5G pilot’ window is open to any player interested in 5G and wanting to perform their first rollouts.

Allocating frequencies to interested players, to conduct the first 5G trials

As of today, Arcep can issue temporary frequency authorisations to develop 5G pilots, notably in the two, above-mentioned bands, within the limits of their availability. In the 3400 – 3800 MHz band, frequencies are already available in the metropolitan areas of Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes, Lille, Le Havre, Saint-Étienne, Douai, Montpellier and Grenoble. This is not an exhaustive list and may change over time: interested parties are invited to contact Arcep if they plan on deploying networks in other frequency ranges, or in other geographical locations.

Obtaining initial feedback

Lastly, these 5G trials will allow the regulator to obtain the first feedback on the use of next generation networks. Information of their experience will help fuel the work that Arcep is doing to prepare for the allocation procedure for future 5G licences.

Arcep begins work on 5G rollout conditions

5G will probably constitute an amalgamation of different innovations (active antennae, use of very high frequencies, multiplication of small cells…) that could significantly alter the way a mobile network is deployed. Arcep wants to work in tandem with the sector to get a jump on the potential effects of these innovations. Along with the creation of the “5G pilot” window, the Authority is therefore also starting work on 5G rollout conditions, which will include a workshop on the topic in 2018.

Arcep will also contribute actively to the work that BEREC (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications – the regulating agency of the telecommunication market in the European Union) will be doing on 5G in 2018, and particularly on infrastructure sharing, frequency allocation procedures and coverage obligations.

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