Ofcom has today (10 January 2017) approved two licence variation requests from EE, which would enable the use of 4G technology and support the provision of enhanced mobile communications for the emergency services.
EE applied for the variations in August 2016 following its selection by the Home Office in 2015 to provide mobile services for the new Emergency Services Network (ESN) based on its LTE network. To support this EE asked for:
• a variation of its Spectrum Access 2100 MHz licence to permit the use of LTE technology in the unpaired frequencies 1899.9 to 1909.9 MHz
• a variation of its 800 MHz/2.6 GHz and 1800 MHz licences to permit the use of mobile transmit frequencies to connect additional temporary base stations to its network at powers up to 31 dBm e.i.r.p in the 800 MHz and 1800 MHz bands for use as gateways for the new emergency services network.
The consultation published today sets out Ofcom's preliminary view that granting the requests is an efficient use of the spectrum and would benefit citizens and consumers, with low risk of harmful interference to other stakeholders.
EE will use the spectrum variations 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 reported that EE expects to deploy circa. 10,000 gateways, although it noted 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.
EE also wanted 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 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 asked 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 will 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, the ESN gateway devices had 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.
See also: EE applies for 4G licence variations to support Emergency Services Network mobile gateways
Photo: North Yorkshire Police (Stuart Grainger)