Countries around the world have been awarding frequencies to support 5G rollouts in the 3.5GHz frequency band. In some nations, however, mobile operators and enterprises are being forced to wait a little longer for these much sought-after airwaves because of certain market peculiarities.
Take the Netherlands, for example. The original plan had been to allocate a full 300MHz in the midband spectrum to mobile operators for future 5G services.
However, the country had neglected to take account of the fact that satellite operator Inmarsat was using a portion of 3.5GHz frequencies for the provision of satellite safety services from Burum in the north of the Netherlands.
Cue a court case and a ruling in Inmarsat's favor that forced the Dutch government back to the drawing board. Its remit now is to come up with a plan that would allow Inmarsat to maintain its services until it is able to secure a license in Greece.
As things stand, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK) is in the middle of a consultation on the amendment of the National Frequency Plan (NFP) to accommodate Inmarsat, mobile operators and private wireless use cases.
The draft proposal, it seems, is to allow Inmarsat to use 80MHz until it is able to relocate its operations – all being well by the beginning of 2024.
The current ambition is to hold an auction in December 2023, when the likes of KPN, T-Mobile Netherlands and VodafoneZiggo would be able to bid for a total of 300MHz. Importantly, a further 100MHz would remain available for what the ministry is terming local mobile applications.
Plea for 100MHz
The consultancy period ends on August 26, 2022. As you can imagine, interested parties have been making their contributions, with one of the latest coming from industry association Branchevereniging ICT en Telecommunicatie Grootgebruikers (BTG), which represents the interests of large Dutch companies and institutions.
Already spooked by original plans to split the 100MHz for private wireless into two 50MHz blocks (something the government now seems to have moved away from), BTG members Schiphol Group and the Port of Rotterdam Authority (known collectively as mainports) are now putting forward the case for private wireless networks in the Netherlands.
In a newly compiled report, they insist that the need for mobile services for operational processes at mainports is "evident and growing rapidly," and said analysis of future needs "shows that 100MHz will certainly be needed."
The Port of Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport together account for about 5% of the Netherlands' GDP. Although the two mainports differ greatly in appearance, they note that both environments have a lot in common with regard to wireless applications and spectrum needs.
The two mainports have already trialed and deployed private wireless networks based on LTE technology. And they emphasize that wireless connectivity will play a decisive role to ensure their competitiveness in the coming years.
You can download the report from the BTG site, although it is only available in Dutch.
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading