Ofcom explores 6 GHz spectrum sharing
July 6, 2023
By Colin Mann
More capacity for Wi-Fi and mobile Internet users could be made available in the upper 6 GHz spectrum band, under a new approach being explored by UK comms regulator Ofcom.
Ofcom notes that demand for data has grown significantly in recent years – from people using both Wi-Fi and mobile networks – and it expects this to continue. This will put pressure on radio spectrum, the valuable and finite resource on which all radiocommunications depend.
The upper 6 GHz spectrum band is currently a focus for industry interest to support this ongoing traffic growth. This interest is split between using the band for the exclusive introduction of either licensed mobile use or low power licence exempt use such as Wi-Fi.
However, rather than choosing between the two, Ofcom believes an alternative approach is possible. It is exploring options that would enable the use of both Wi-Fi and mobile in the band, describing this as ‘hybrid sharing’. Two examples for how this might be achieved are:
- Indoor outdoor split. Wi-Fi routers tend to be indoors – carrying broadband traffic within a localised indoor area; whereas mobile transmitters are mostly located outdoors – providing wider area coverage. Accordingly, Ofcom is exploring the possibility of enabling the indoor use of Wi-Fi while also enabling licensed mobile use outdoors.
- Geographical sharing. Most of the data traffic carried across mobile networks tends to be concentrated in a relatively small proportion of sites. It might be possible to enable licensed mobile use in specific high-traffic locations while allowing Wi-Fi use elsewhere. It might also be possible to prioritise Wi-Fi use in specific areas of high demand while allowing mobile use in other areas.
Ofcom is looking to identify appropriate hybrid sharing mechanisms to facilitate coexistence between licensed mobile and Wi-Fi in this band. It is also pressing for international harmonisation of hybrid sharing in this band, to enable economies of scale for equipment.
It is inviting comments on this approach by September 15th, 2023.