UK mobile network operator EE is applying to telecoms regulator Ofcom for two spectrum license variations to help it deliver its commitments for the new 4G Emergency Services Network. In 2015, EE signed a contract with the Home Office to provide the mobile services element for a new emergency services network.
The variations will be used to connect mobile base stations (gateway devices), which could be fitted to emergency services vehicles to extend or boost 4G coverage in areas of weak coverage – usually remote locations. They will also be used to extend coverage into buildings to aid communications among emergency services personnel when they enter a building and signal levels drop off.
Ofcom has announced a consultation on the two licence variation requests from EE. As part of providing this service EE has asked for:
• a variation of its spectrum access 2100 MHz licence to liberalise its use from 3G and permit the use of 4G technology in the unpaired frequencies 1899.9 to 1909.9 MHz
• and, a variation of its 800 MHz and 1800 MHz licences to provide a backhaul path to connect mobile base stations – known as gateway devices – to be used by the emergency services in the 1899.9 to 1909.9 MHz band.
Ofcom is asking stakeholders to consider the following questions when responding to this consultation:
• Q1) Do you agree with our proposal to vary EE’s Spectrum Access 2100 MHz licence to allow LTE technology? If not, please explain why you think it would not be appropriate to vary the licence?
• Q2) Do you agree with our proposal to authorise the backhaul of ESN Gateway devices at a maximum mean transmit power of 31 dBm e.i.r.p. in the uplink frequencies 837.0 to 842.0 MHz and 1736.7 to 1781.7 MHz in EE’s 800 MHz and 1800 MHz licensed spectrum to facilitate the occasional and limited use of higher power uplink transmission? If not, please explain why you think it would not be appropriate to vary the licence?
ESN mobile gateways
The vehicle-mounted mobile ESN gateways are designed to provide an extension to EE’s mobile coverage if the emergency services are responding to an incident in an area or location that has weak network coverage. The vehicle can be deployed at the edge of EE’s ordinary coverage, allowing ESN terminal devices to connect to the main network via the gateway.
Ofcom reports that EE expects to deploy circa. 10,000 gateways, although it notes there are approximately 45,000 emergency services vehicles in total, which could all potentially be fitted out with gateways.
The ESN gateways will use TD-LTE technology in EE’s 1900 MHz unpaired spectrum holdings at 1899.9 to 1909.9 MHz to provide a ‘bubble’ of connectivity around the ESN gateway device. The transmission to the gateway will then be backhauled to the main EE network via the operator’s 800 MHz or 1800 MHz spectrum.
Extension of coverage into buildings
EE also wants to be able to support the deployment of a mobile gateway outside a structure or building within its macro coverage to boost the 4G signal inside. EE has asked for two variations.
The first involves using its 1900 MHz unpaired spectrum to enable communications between emergency service personnel terminal devices and the ESN gateway. To do this, EE is asking Ofcom to vary its 2100 MHz licence in order to allow TD-LTE use as the licence currently restricts use of the 1900 MHz unpaired spectrum to UMTS (3G) use.
To provide a backhaul capability from the gateway to EE’s main network, EE wants to use paired spectrum at 800 MHz (796 to 801 MHz paired with 837 to 842 MHz) and at 1800 MHz (1831.7 to 1876.7 MHz paired with 1736.7 to 1781.7 MHz).
To do this, EE would like ESN gateway devices to be authorised to transmit at a maximum mean power of 31 dBm e.i.r.p. in the uplink frequencies 837.0 to 842.0 MHz and 1736.7 to 1781.7 MHz – this power is higher than currently permitted in these bands.
The consultation sets out Ofcom’s preliminary view that granting the requests would benefit citizens and consumers, with low risk of harmful interference to other stakeholders.
The closing date for comments is 30 September 2016.
The consultation document can be found here.
Image: Suffolk Police