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Mobile spectrum sharing pilot begins in France

Ericsson joins with startup Red Technologies, Qualcomm and the French government to run a radio spectrum sharing pilot for future 5G mobile networks

An extensive pilot of licensed shared access (LSA) spectrum sharing technology has begun in Paris, supported by Ericsson, local startup Red Technologies, mobile chip supplier Qualcomm and the French government.

The pilot programme will see the Ministère de la Défense – the French equivalent of the UK’s Ministry of Defence – share spectrum that it currently holds in the 2.3 to 2.4GHz band using Ericsson’s radio access network.

LSA addresses the fact that large incumbent licensed spectrum holders, such as military and public sector organisations, often do not use the entire spectrum available to them.

It is a vital tool in making more efficient use of radio spectrum in the future because allowing these organisations to share their unused spectrum with mobile network operators (MNOs) – with appropriate safeguards in place – will free up more network capacity for mobile services.

It is hoped that the pilot will lead to the release of large amounts of licensed spectrum for public use in France, possibly in the next 24 months. On a wider scale, those involved are also setting out to prove that applying LSA to the 2.3 to 2.4GHz band across Europe could, in theory, release enough spectrum to enable 5G services for all European Union (EU) citizens.

“Sufficient availability of licensed spectrum will be a key asset to allow the deployment of 5G services, with the expected capacity and quality of service requirements. LSA is an agile technology approach to boost capacity. The combination of licensed and unlicensed bands is a key 5G technology development area,” said Thomas Noren, vice-president and head of radio product management at Ericsson.

Enhancing French mobile experience

In the French pilot, Ericsson will deploy a radio access system including carrier aggregation and radio dot technology, enabling small cell deployments for high-performance indoor voice and data coverage and capacity, while Red Technologies will provide its spectrum management platform, which is based on live radio environment maps and self-organising network engines. Qualcomm will supply the 4G devices used in the trial.

“This initiative touches the core of the French telecoms industry and has the potential to considerably enhance the consumer mobile experience in France, as well as generate significant economic return. The participants involved are demonstrating commendable foresight and inventive strength,” said the French minister for digital affairs Axelle Lemaire.

“Spectrum availability is a core condition for flourishing technology adoption and innovation. This LSA pilot is therefore a vital step towards the realisation of Europe’s Digital Single Market,” added Wassim Chourbaji, vice-president of government affairs at Qualcomm.

UK adoption of LSA

In the UK, a recent report produced by techUK’s UK Spectrum Policy Forum made a number of recommendations on adoption of LSA.

TechUK called for policy-makers to consider simplifying the process for sharing arrangements for spectrum held by the public sector in the UK, possibly incentivising public sector users to share; to look at ways in which greater transparency of information on spectrum supply and demand can be achieved; and to work with regulator Ofcom and industry to adopt a “bolder approach” to coexistence between the public sector and MNOs.

While there are currently no proposals to adopt LSA in the UK, the British government has already moved to try to sell off some spectrum held by the public sector, specifically the Ministry of Defence, which is in the process of selling 190Mhz of spectrum in the 2.3 and 3.4GHz bands. This is equivalent to around three-quarters of the total spectrum awarded to 4G networks in the UK, and would vastly increase data capacity around the country.

However, in December 2015 this process was temporarily put on hold by telecoms regulator Ofcom because of continued uncertainty over the future of the UK’s mobile networks.

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