ECC Newsletter August 2018

Europe gets closer to the rollout of 5G

As the Electronic Communications Committee adopts a set of deliverables that will pave the way for 5G, it demonstrates its crucial role in European spectrum management

The ECC has reached a significant breakthrough in spectrum for 5G. It has adopted a set of deliverables, which are shaping the harmonisation of the frequency bands 3.4-3.8 GHz (referred to as the 3.6 GHz band) and 24.25-27.5 GHz (referred to as the 26 GHz band) for 5G.

This significant achievement is paving the way for 5G implementation in these two frequency bands for the 48 administrations that are part of CEPT.

In a previous newsletter article in September 2017 we outlined the harmonisation activities in the ECC to make these two priority bands available for 5G, as part of the CEPT roadmap for 5G. The latest milestone marks the finalisation of the main deliverables to complete these activities.

This essential step in 5G development in Europe was reached at the ECC’s 48th Plenary meeting, which took place in Rome, Italy, from 2 July to 6 July 2018. It follows months of extensive studies and public consultation.

With this latest achievement, ECC has yet again demonstrated its indispensable role in European spectrum management. It provided a unique forum to all concerned stakeholders to submit proposals, express their views and finally to reach compromise on the technical challenges brought by the future coexistence between 5G systems and the current users of the spectrum within and adjacent to the 3.6 and 26 GHz bands.

The resulting new regulatory framework means that adequate spectrum will be made available in a timely fashion, as technologies improve, to deal with 5G. In addition, the implementation of appropriate technical and regulatory provisions means that the interests of other spectrum users (satellite communications, Earth observation, military usage) are safeguarded.

Harmonised technical conditions for the 3.4-3.8 GHz band

This band is already harmonised within Europe for Mobile/Fixed Communication Networks (MFCN) through ECC Decision (11)06. Activities have been carried out to review the harmonised technical conditions contained in this Decision to ensure their suitability for 5G. ECC Report 281, with proposed updates to the technical conditions, was published in July 2018. The updates reflect the use of Active Antenna Systems (AAS) for 5G. As a follow-up activity, ECC Decision (11)06 is currently under review. A draft revision has been agreed for public consultation in July 2018. Its final adoption for publication is scheduled during the next ECC meeting in October 2018.

The move to AAS for 5G marks a fundamental change in antenna technology. It uses multiple integrated antenna elements in an array which can be dynamically controlled to steer beams towards specific users. This results in increased throughput to individual users. However, it requires changes to the way existing regulatory limits have been specified, while ensuring the ongoing coexistence with users of adjacent bands under previous limits.

In particular, ECC Report 281 studied the impact of 5G using AAS on radar operating below 3.4 GHz, as well as fixed links and fixed satellite earth stations operating above 3.8 GHz. The report concluded on suitable unwanted emission limits for AAS systems which would maintain sufficient protection of these other applications.

As reported in the previous article on 5G, there is a need to ‘de-fragment’ the existing allocations in the 3.6 GHz band in order to facilitate large contiguous blocks of bandwidth and to provide high throughput for 5G. Draft guidelines have been developed accordingly (Draft ECC Report 287 currently under finalisation) to help administrations meet this objective of re-organising the band, in which there are existing licences in many CEPT countries.

ECC Report 281 also studied the possibility of synchronisation between different operators in adjacent blocks of spectrum. The Report concluded on a set of limits applicable for synchronised operation, and a separate set of more restrictive limits applicable for unsynchronised or semi-synchronised operation, in cases where no geographic or indoor/outdoor separation is available. However, the report also noted that agreements at national level, or between adjacent operators, may provide flexibility in the implementation of these limits. Activities are ongoing to develop an ECC Report to provide guidance to administrations on how such flexibility may be implemented.

Harmonised technical conditions for the 24.25-27.5 GHz band

CEPT identified the 26 GHz band for early European harmonisation. This band provides over 3 GHz of contiguous spectrum and more favourable propagation than other higher frequency bands being considered for 5G. Compatibility and protection, as appropriate, with all existing services in the same and adjacent frequency bands needed to be addressed. As a result, ECC PT1 developed ECC Decision (18)06, setting the harmonised conditions for the introduction of 5G in the 26 GHz band. The ECC Decision was adopted by ECC and published in July 2018.

The agreed technical conditions include specific out-of-band limits necessary to protect EESS (Earth Exploration Satellite Service - passive) in the band 23.6-24 GHz. They are used in various European Space Agency science and Earth observation programmes, the EC Copernicus programme, as well as the EUMETSAT programs. These limits were developed based on the results of extensive studies.

Within the band 25.5-27 GHz, consideration was given to existing and future meteorological EESS/SRS (Earth Exploration Satellite Service/Space Research Service) satellites that transmit raw instrument data for atmospherics physics, environmental and climatic issues to a limited number of receiving earth stations. Protection of these earth stations from 5G services in the same band requires suitable conditions to be included in national authorisations, which may include minimum separation distances between 5G base stations and EESS/SRS earth stations. ECC PT1 is developing an ECC Recommendation to address suitable measures, including the provision for future earth stations.

The band 24.65-25.25 GHz is used by a limited number of transmitting fixed-satellite service (FSS) earth stations. Studies have shown these should not cause interference to 5G in the same band. ECC PT1 is developing an ECC Recommendation to ensure current and future earth stations can continue to operate without impact to 5G.

Protection from interference in the other direction — from 5G base stations to space station receivers operating in the FSS and also within the Inter-Satellite Service (ISS) — is also shown to be achievable. To ensure this, the technical conditions include a requirement that base stations should not normally transmit with antenna beams pointing above the horizon.

Co-existence with fixed links operating in the same band needs to be addressed at national level. ECC PT1 is developing an ECC Report to provide guidance to administrations with options to facilitate sharing.

Similarly to the 3.6 GHz case, ECC PT1 is also developing guidance for administrations on options for unsynchronised and semi-synchronised use in the 26 GHz band.

EC Mandate on 5G

In December 2016, the European Commission issued a Mandate to CEPT to harmonise technical conditions for the development of EU-wide 5G equipment. The Mandate addresses the same bands identified in the CEPT roadmap (3.6 GHz and 26 GHz), so there is a link to the harmonisation activities within ECC as outlined above. ECC PT1 has developed two CEPT Reports on harmonisation measures: CEPT Report 67 on 3.6 GHz and CEPT Report 68 on 26 GHz. The Reports reflect the updated technical conditions for 3.6 GHz in ECC Decision (11)06 and the new technical conditions for 26 GHz in ECC Decision (18)06 respectively. They were sent to the EC in July 2018 and form the basis of future considerations within the Radio Spectrum Committee for the development of relevant EC regulations in the two bands.

Next steps on the application of the CEPT roadmap for 5G

ECC will continue to work on 5G spectrum regulation in Europe through the application of the CEPT Roadmap for 5G, which it is working towards for the benefit of the 48 CEPT administrations.

The 5G Roadmap has identified the need to assess possibilities for 5G in other bands below 3 GHz which are already harmonised for use by mobile. These bands would provide the benefit of wider coverage for 5G in rural areas, while the higher frequency bands will be mainly used to provide high capacity in urban and suburban areas. ECC has agreed that the existing harmonisation framework in the 700 MHz and 800 MHz is already suitable for 5G, since AAS will not be deployed in these bands due to constraints on antenna size. ECC PT1 is undertaking work in the 900 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz bands to allow for the use of AAS in these bands while ensuring compatibility with existing services in adjacent bands is maintained. Similarly to the 3.6 GHz case, updates to the relevant ECC Decisions may be required.

In addition, ECC is also reviewing the existing cross-border co-ordination framework in relevant bands to ensure it is ‘5G ready’.

At the global level, ECC is working on preparation for 5G spectrum bands at the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19, which will be held in October and November next year. Agenda Item 1.13 of WRC-19 focusses on candidate bands for possible IMT (International Mobile Telecommunications) identification in the ‘millimetre wave’ range above 24 GHz. Such an identification would allow for global harmonisation for 5G, and a range of bands are already being studied. ECC PT1 has recently agreed to support IMT identification in the 26 GHz band, based on the agreed technical conditions in ECC Decision (18)06, as well as two other bands - 40.5-43.5 GHz and 66-71 GHz. This preparation work will continue until mid-2019 when the CEPT positions on all bands will be finalised for the conference.

Peter Faris, Spectrum Expert, European Communications Office
Bruno Espinosa, Deputy Director, European Communications Office