Arcep publishes a synopsis of the responses to its public consultation on "New frequencies for superfast access in the regions, for businesses, 5G and innovation" launched on 6 January 2017

Paris, 22 June 2017

Arcep held a public consultation from 6 January to 6 March 2017 whose purpose was to identify and characterise stakeholders' frequency access requirements for different uses:

­­ - mobile services, their transition to 5G and the Internet of Things;

- the deployment of superfast fixed wireless access services, particularly in those areas were wireline solutions will not otherwise be available in the short or medium term;

­ - the transition to superfast professional mobile radio networks, which a great many businesses use for their own operations. These networks are used, for instance, by infrastructure managers (airports, subway systems, etc.) to enable the company's staff to communicate with one another. These networks currently employ 2G technologies.

Arcep received feedback from 66 market stakeholders (local authorities, operators, equipment suppliers, trade associations, industry firms…), a synopsis of which it is publishing today.

In light of the responses it received, Arcep wants to begin frequency allocations in the 3.5 GHz (3400 - 3800 MHz) and 2.6 GHz TDD (2570 - 2620 MHz) bands this year, to satisfy the urgent needs that were expressed regarding fixed superfast internet access and professional mobile radio services. Arcep also wants to begin immediately to prepare for the launch of 5G mobile networks in the 3.4 - 3.8 GHz band.

The consultation also provided an opportunity to gather information on the targeted use of other frequency bands: the 1.4 GHz band, the 2.3 GHz band, the SDL portion of the 700 MHz band, the 400 MHz band and the 26 GHz band.

What resources for which needs?

To be able to satisfy the two requirements identified as urgent, Arcep confirms that it will be taking the approach suggested in the public consultation, namely to use a portion of 3.5 GHz band frequencies to upgrade wireless local loop (WLL) networks to superfast wireless networks, and to use 2.6 GHz TDD band frequencies to upgrade professional mobile radio (PMR) networks to superfast systems.

Next, Arcep will make the vast majority of the 3.4-3.8 GHz band available to market players, with a view to 5G rollouts.

As a result, frequency use in the two bands will ultimately be as follows:

Frequency allocation methods for superfast wireless and PMR systems

In the coming weeks, Arcep will be holding a public consultation on the methods to be used for allocating frequencies identified for these two uses, whose general principles are detailed below.

Regarding superfast wireless systems, Arcep confirms that it plans on allowing 40 MHz to be used to provide superfast fixed internet access in those areas that will not otherwise have satisfactory solutions in the short or medium term. This will be the 3420 - 3460 MHz band. Furthermore, in a certain number of areas an additional 10 MHz (the 3410 - 3420 MHz band) could be devoted to this purpose, depending on the restrictions attached to cohabitation with existing uses in bands below 3400 MHz.

The aim for Arcep is to flesh out the toolkit available to deliver broadband and superfast broadband coverage nationwide: use of these frequencies could serve as a complement to fibre rollouts, upgrades to existing copper and cable networks, mobile operators' use of 4G and satellite.

Frequency licences will contain ambitious rollout obligations, so that use of these frequencies makes it possible to guarantee that superfast fixed internet access is available to every household in France, and thereby contribute to achieving digital regional development objectives nationwide.

Regarding PMR systems, Arcep has confirmed its desire to dedicate the central 40 MHz of the 2.6 GHz TDD band (i.e. the 2575 - 2615 MHz sub-band) to establishing networks that satisfy superfast professional mobile radio needs.

Prepare for the arrival of 5G

As stakeholders who responded to the consultation pointed out, the 3.4 - 3.8 GHz band is slated to be used for fifth generation (5G) mobile services starting in 2020. Arcep therefore wants to begin immediately the work that needs to be done to prepare for the launch of 5G in this band.

Reorganise the 3.5 GHz band

Stakeholders who responded to the public consultation voiced their support for a reorganisation of the frequencies in this band, to take changes in the technologies being used into account. Existing superfast 3400 - 3600 MHz band licences will thus be regrouped, in the form of contiguous blocks, towards the bottom of the band, so that the target configuration presented above can eventually be achieved.

This configuration will make it possible to have more than 300 MHz of contiguous spectrum available for 5G by 2020, and 340 MHz by 2026 (and possibly even 390 MHz in places where the frequencies are not being used for superfast wireless systems).

Launch 5G trials

Without waiting for these rearrangements to be made and 5G frequencies to be allocated, Arcep wants to allow any players that so request to be able to conduct 5G trials rapidly. A sub-band of 80 MHz (3600 - 3680 MHz) has thus been identified, and could be allocated in different locations. Because of the various, temporary restrictions imposed by other users of these frequencies, Arcep has identified an initial list of cities where these trials could be performed: Lyon, Nantes, Lille, Le Havre, Saint-Étienne and Grenoble. This list is not exhaustive, and any party interested in performing such trials is invited to contact Arcep to examine the feasibility of their project.

Timetable and next stages in the process

Arcep will launch a public consultation in July on the document that sets out the system to be used for allocating 3.5 GHz frequencies for superfast wireless networks. It then plans on beginning the frequency allocation procedure in September 2017.
Regarding PMR systems, Arcep will hold a consultation in the autumn on the document that sets out the system to be used for allocating 2.6 GHz frequencies, and plans on beginning its frequency allocation procedure before the end of the year.

Lastly, on the matter of 5G, Arcep plans on contacting all of the players with a licence in the 3.4 - 3.8 GHz band without delay, with a view to amending these licences and, before the end of 2017, adding the rearrangements due to take place in that band. In the meantime, Arcep welcomes all and any queries from players interested in conducting 5G trials. Based on these trials, Arcep could then begin preparing for the frequency allocation procedure that would enable 5G services to launch in France, starting in 2018.

Annex: List of entities that responded to the public consultation

Afnum Conseil départemental des Pyrénées-Atlantiques Huawei RATP
Afone Infrastructure Conseil départemental du Calvados Hub One RED Technologies
AGURRE Dynamic Spectrum Alliance Iliad Région Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
Air France e*Message Infosat FDDN/SCANI
AIRBUS Defence and Space EDF Intel Seine et Marne Numérique
Alsatis Enedis Keybridge Sem@for77
Altitude Infrastructure Ericsson Le Tonnerois en Bourgogne SFR
Amarisoft et Nexedi ESOA Lot Numérique SMTC-Tisséo
AVICCA ETELM Lot-et-Garonne Numérique SNCF Réseau
AVICCA AMF ADF ARF Eutelsat Mairie de Marseille SNIR
Axe de recherche 5G FIRIP Manche Numérique Société du Grand Paris
Axione Gers Numérique Ministère de l'Intérieur Syaden
Bolloré Telecom GPRP Nièvre Numérique TDF
Bouygues Telecom Groupe ANT du CEREMA Nokia Thales Communications & Security
Cisco GSA NomoTech Touraine Cher Numérique
CNES GSMA Orange  
Conseil départemental de l'Hérault Haute-Garonne Numérique Qualcomm  
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