Wireless carriers in the United Kingdom recently updated their 5G launch plans that showed this year will be pivotal for those deployments.
BT, which owns wireless carrier EE, last week flagged the “imminent” launch of its 5G network. EE said late last year that it would launch service in 16 cities by the end of 2019, and now says it’s on track to go live in all previously announced cities this year “with a range of device partners.”
Telefonica-owned O2 UK, which previously announced plans to launch 5G this year, announced a collaboration with the Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) that it expects to “play a vital role enabling 5G.” However, that initial work with WIG is focused on improving 4G LTE coverage indoors and in public spaces.
Three UK, meanwhile, said its second 5G site has gone live in central London and indicated that it intends to start rolling out services to customers in the second half of the year. It also said testing had started on its new “fully virtualized cloud core network with Nokia.”
5G Coverage Obligations
In terms of spectrum, U.K. regulator Ofcom is working on plans to auction spectrum in the 700 MHz and 3.6 GHz-3.7 GHz bands dedicated to 5G services. It has already allocated spectrum in the 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands following an auction in April 2018.
The regulator is currently looking to attach coverage obligations to some of the 700 MHz licenses, however reports now suggest that the four carriers have come up with a cunning plan that might see such obligations waived. That plan involves the formation of a new company targeted at improving 4G LTE rural coverage.
According to reports, the four carriers have told U.K. culture secretary Jeremy Wright that they would allow access to each other’s cell towers in rural areas on a reciprocal basis. This proposal is said to be contingent on the removal of coverage obligations attached to 5G spectrum licenses as well as a reduction in annual license fees paid by the networks.
It remains to be seen if this rare example of collaboration among the four carriers will result in the elimination of 4G LTE “not spots” and the removal of 5G coverage obligations.