Use of frequencies in 2015

One of the most significant changes in the use of frequencies in 2015 was the start of frequency changes in the 700 MHz frequency range. It will be transferred from TV broadcasts to wireless broadband. In addition, a number of decisions affecting the current and future use of frequencies was made at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) held at the end of the year. For example, investigations of frequencies to be used by future 5G networks were initiated at WRC-15.

The objective of frequency planning is to provide users of radio equipment with sufficiently disturbance-free radio frequencies according to their needs and the general demand. The use of frequencies can best be illustrated by dividing them over different frequency ranges. Most frequencies are used in radio relay and radar operations.

The majority of low (68–1,000 MHz) frequencies are used in analogue voice radio operations, mobile communication and TV broadcasts focused on this frequency range only. The 700 MHz frequency range used previously for TV broadcasts will be transferred to the use of wireless broadband from the beginning of 2017, and the transfer of TV broadcasts from this frequency range started in July 2015. Frequency changes in the terrestrial network concern approximately half of all Finnish households, and information about these changes will be announced actively according to the project schedule. To secure frequency resources for TV operations at frequencies under 700 MHz, FICORA also continued to negotiate over frequencies with our neighbouring countries. The construction of LTE networks has continued rapidly in the 800 MHz frequency range, which was already transferred to the use of wireless broadband from TV broadcasts in 2014, and this has improved the availability of wireless broadband.

In 2015, a large number of new frequencies was allocated for the use of FM radio operations. As these operations are also affected by the use of frequencies in neighbouring countries, the release of new frequencies required successful negotiations between FICORA and the frequency administrations of our neighbouring countries.

The popularity of radio operations subject to short-term radio licences has continued to increase. These are used, for example, at various sporting events, in local radio operations and in various theme-specific radio services, particularly in the summer and during Christmas.

The most significant users of the 1–3 GHz range are mobile communications networks, but the range is also used for other purposes, such as weather services and marine radio operations. The 3–6 GHz range is mainly used by fixed wireless networks, aviation radio communications, SRD and the military. The highest frequencies of 6–10 GHz are mainly used by radio relays, radars and satellites.

As frequency bands of several GHz need to be assigned to the new 5G technology, the current use of frequencies will need to be reorganised. Investigations are already in progress, initially concerning frequency bands above 24 GHz. However, 5G also has a need for lower frequencies. FICORA supports and promotes research and development concerning 5G by issuing test licences with terms that are as flexible as possible and by taking active part in international cooperation.

In 2015, radio relays were the single largest user of frequencies. Relays mainly focus on higher frequency ranges above 6 GHz. Radio relays set up a fixed data transfer connection between two locations. In recent years, operators have busily replaced old, narrow-bandwidth radio relays with wider bandwidth relays, with this trend also continuing last year. The capacity of modern wide-bandwidth radio relays is up to 1 GB per second. The increase in capacity is based, for example, on the significantly growing use of mobile networks.

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Figure: The number of radio relay spans by bandwidth

This article is a part of FICORA's Communications Sector Review 1/2016.

Key words: Spectrum, Articles, Reviews, Statistics

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