The European Commission (EC) yesterday (14 May 2019) adopted an Implementing Decision to harmonise the 24.25GHz-27.5GHz (26GHz) radio spectrum band for 5G usage. Under the Decision, EU countries should set common technical conditions to support 26GHz 5G systems by 31 December 2020 in line with the European Electronic Communications Code, which asserts that EU member states must allow the use of at least 1GHz of the 26GHz band by end-2020 to facilitate 5G rollout ‘provided that there is clear evidence of market demand and of the absence of significant constraints for migration of existing users or band clearance’. The harmonised technical conditions seek to ensure spectrum usage by multiple 5G networks while mitigating interference risks and ensuring compatibility with incumbent radio services (such as satellite services) within the 26GHz range and in adjacent bands. Member states must report to the EC on their implementation of the Decision by 30 June 2020.
An EC press release adds that the 26GHz band will be a key discussion at the 2019 World Radiocommunications Conference in October-November, where EU members ‘can take a common position based on EU-harmonised technical conditions’.
The 26GHz band offers the largest capacity of the three ‘pioneer bands’ (700MHz/3.6GHz/26GHz) earmarked for initial 5G deployment under the EU ‘5G Action Plan’. According to a study undertaken on behalf of the Commission (report to be published in the coming weeks), the first 26GHz-based services are expected to focus on Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) for high capacity fixed-wireless access (FWA), high-definition video communications, plus virtual, augmented and mixed reality (VR/AR/MR) applications. It is expected that progressive adoption of this band by 5G operators will initially be focused on ‘congested hot spots, major transport paths and industrial sites’.
UHF Decision (EU) 2017/899 and Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/235 (both in force) foresee availability of the 700MHz and 3.6GHz bands across the EU by mid-2020 and end-2020, respectively.