Konstantin Sutyagin - Fotolia

Internet of things developers to get new spectrum licences

Ofcom will launch a new licence product to more adequately address and accommodate IoT use cases later in 2016

Ofcom is to launch a new licence product to make specific provision for the internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications while continuing to support current applications.

The decision comes following a consultation on the spectrum currently made available to such applications. This concluded that the 55-68MHz, 70.5-71.5MHz and 80-81.5MHz very high frequency (VHF) bands were suitable for delivering IoT services in rural areas, and that wider use of these frequencies could be accommodated without hurting existing users.

The regulator sought to address a misconception that its existing business radio (BR) licence products were only designed for voice and therefore unsuitable, and asked whether a new form of licensing specifically for the IoT would be a good idea.

It said it had uncovered no evidence to make it think the existing licensing regime was inappropriate for IoT, however, it recognised “this may not be clear to stakeholders”.

Ofcom said it was concerned that the confusion “could be hindering investment and development in the IoT and in the VHF bands more generally.”

To address this, a new licence will be introduced later in 2016 that will replace its BR products and support IoT applications alongside current BR applications. Users with existing licences will be allowed to operate as they currently do.

Other spectrum bands available to the IoT in the 870-867MHz and 915-921MHz bands will remain available.

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The regulator said it did not consider spectrum availability to be a barrier to the deployment of IoT networks. It said this is because the low data rates associated with most IoT uses means they could still be easily supported while leaving enough room for everybody else.

Commenting on the report, EY telecoms analyst Adrian Baschnonga said the use of VHF bands for IoT services would best suit rural and energy sector applications where low power and long-range connectivity are essential.

“Yet many service providers are also focused on the opportunity for low power IoT delivered via other frequency bands, either through licensed or licence-exempt spectrum,” he said. “In this light, many companies with ambitions in IoT face an ever-widening array of technology choices.”



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