back to article Nokia demos upper 6 GHz band for mobile, but UK wants it shared with Wi-Fi

Nokia and Swedish telco Telia have completed a pilot deployment using the upper 6 GHz spectrum band, hoping to add capacity and coverage for future expansion. However, some regulators such as the UK's Ofcom think this band should be available for both mobile and Wi-Fi. According to Nokia, the trials used a Massive MIMO ( …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pesky buildings

    > The upper 6 GHz band is "not the most promising band for getting signals into or out of buildings,"

    So how do they deal with buildings being in the way? Or they going to put an aerial on every street?

    1. Like a badger

      Re: Pesky buildings

      "So how do they deal with buildings being in the way? Or they going to put an aerial on every street?"

      If you're outdoor in a built up area, then quite often the phone connects via signals reflected from buildings or diffracted at corners rather than passing through masonry. With the range and penetrating power of signals decreasing as frequency increases, 6GHz mobile will struggle to give decent strength in many buildings or if you're in the radio-shadow of a building, even though it could be perfectly useable outside. But you're correct in the idea that higher frequencies require more masts - this was true for the higher frequencies used by mobile 5G signals that use 3.6 to 3.8 GHz, and would be more so for 6GHz.

      That's amongst the reasons that some regulators have decided that 6GHz is best used purely for wifi.

      1. Jonathon Green

        Re: Pesky buildings

        Is that a bug or a feature?

        My (possibly, even probably naive) assumption was that more, smaller cells would improve capacity in busy urban areas and that the shorter range and reduced penetration of higher frequency signals would help facilitate that.

        1. Like a badger

          Re: Pesky buildings

          It's a feature, down to the physics of radio waves. You're right that more smaller cells done properly can improve capacity, but that has the downside that smaller masts have far worse capital cost pro-rata to normal large masts, especially for the backhaul and design elements, and those are new costs for telcos but generally don't generate much extra income. Throw in the complexities of planning, the practical difficulty in applying nominally simple ideas like using lamp posts as nG masts, and it all starts to become very challenging to build an investment case for higher frequency mobile.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Pesky buildings

            In my city house I have seen my signal get worse as more buildings go up, but no new aerials. 3G gets shut off and I struggle to get a 4G signal. Not only due to those extra buildings but also the many many more people who live in those buildings also now taking a share of that old signal.

            1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

              Re: Pesky buildings

              All those salty moisture-filled bags can't help.

              1. Snowy Silver badge
                Joke

                Re: Pesky buildings

                At around 0.4 per cent of the body's weight for salt they are not very salty, more like bags of mostly fresh water.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Pesky buildings

              It's the frequency, not the "G" that is the issue.

              Indeed, the higher generations make more efficient use of the bandwidth.

              When the 3G and 2G networks are shutdown, their frequencies will be available for other "G"'s to use, so if your 4G signal is bad, shutting down previous G's should actually help.

          2. Furious Reg reader John

            Re: Pesky buildings

            Shocking - who would have thought that the telcos actually have to invest to keep their platforms working at a sufficiently minimum level to provide for their punters.

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Pesky buildings

        I assume this is for infill coverage in super-high density areas rather than for nationwide coverage.

        Much like my experience of 5G at the moment. I’m not finding my new 5G phone any faster than my old 4G, but I am finding I get a more consistent signal and less slow-downs in city centres.

    2. Xalran

      Re: Pesky buildings

      Already in 5G the $TELCO have plans to use lamposts and other /urban features/ to hide antennas and create small cells for high frequency signals.

      So it's not far fetched to speculate that they will plan the same for the 6GHz band.

  2. Lazlo Woodbine

    Indoor / Outdoor

    "The indoor/outdoor split method simply recognizes that Wi-Fi traffic is almost exclusively indoors, while mobile masts are located outdoors"

    That would be fun at the last school I worked. Their cricket pitch is overlooked by the area's mobile phone mast, not a problem you might say, except the cricket pitch is smothered with WiFi for when Lancashire play a couple of matches each summer. Sky and local radio use the WiFi for their equipment.

  3. Mage Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    6GHz Mobile?

    Only good for in-room hotspots, stadiums, racecourses etc.

    Mobile should get zero extra spectrum and instead have smaller / more cells. Existing spectrum they have is managed by bean counters, not engineering based regulation for the customer.

    So Ofcom is wrong. It should be all WiFi.

    1. Rahbut

      Re: 6GHz Mobile?

      Completely agree - but OFCOM will want some money, and they're not going to get that from using the spectrum for wifi :(

    2. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: 6GHz Mobile?

      Agreed, 6GHz should be for unlicensed applications.

      The spectrum used by TV is far better for mobiles anyway, you can easily get 20km+ out of a single tower at 500Mhz, low bandwidth so not good for streaming but perfectly adequate for calls, texts and light internet.

      <Rant>

      We should have never rolled out DVB-T, DVB-T2 (HD) was nearly complete at the time and the BBC even told the government that rolling out DVB-T was a bad idea. Now we have to operate both DVB-T and DVB-T2 which means using more of the spectrum.

      </Rant>

      We are in the process of running fiber straight into ever home, ISPs should be required to provide broadcast TV over fiber. And no I don't mean streaming, cable tv over fiber is possible and as it is broadcast it is low bandwidth.

      Satellite TV (via freesat) is available everywhere in the country, SAT>IP means you no longer need to run cables from the LNB to every TV in your house, and the price of satellites has plummeted in recent years. I wouldn't be surprised if the running costs for Freesat were cheaper than Freeview.

      We need a spectrum policy that takes multiple industries into account and understands how the public and businesses use services and not just blindly believing what the service providers say.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: 6GHz Mobile?

        No, TV spectrum makes for poorly defined too big cells. They already got spectrum below 870MHz and should not have got it. It just saved them some rural masts.

        I used to work in the industry and the only reasons for more mobile spectrum outside 870 MHz to 2.1 GHz are:

        1) More money for regulators/government

        2) Less new masts needed.

        Most regulators are captured because they get more income from Mobile than anything, apart from spectrum auctions.

        Also splitting spectrum between operators is wasteful. The best way to use spectrum is a single RAN for all bands.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_access_network

        This can be jointly owned and managed by operators, or be a single operator per geographic area, or a separately regulated state agency.

        The current model of Regulation for most things in most countries has failed. See UK Water/sewerage, rail, finance (2008 was some regulators ignoring their duty), advertising (self regulated in UK & Ireland!).

        1. Xalran

          Re: 6GHz Mobile?

          I agree RAN & Spectrum is the best way to use the available spectrum for mobile Networks...

          But, since you used to work in the industry (like me) you know that operators wants captive customers and you can't get captive customers if your **visible** network is the same as every other operators. (even if that's the **invisible** network that makes the difference... it's very very hard to sell for Marketing and sales drones )

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: 6GHz Mobile?

      My new router (for fibre) supports WiFi 6E (which Google tells me is the entire 6 GHz band (5.925 to 7.125 GHz)), so hardware is already out there in Europe (not just the US) that uses the whole band for WiFi. Given that 5G over here uses under 6 GHz or something over 24 GHz, is the UK market big enough to go and "do something different"?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: 6GHz Mobile?

        The hardware can already use those frequencies, but it just has to turn off some of the bands. WiFi equipment has been doing this to deal with country requirements since the beginning. The original 2.4 GHz band had 14 channels, but only 11 were allowed in North America, and only 13 in most of the world. Almost all hardware requires, at some level, a country code which is used to select the allowed bands before it switches on. I don't know what will realistically happen if you use that to transmit on frequencies you're not supposed to.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: 6GHz Mobile?

          I was thinking the other way around, that while disabling half of the WiFi bands wouldn't be too difficult, to use nearby frequencies for mobile could mean potentially designing a custom antenna (and maybe other radio hardware for that band) that would seem to be, well, specifically UK only?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 6GHz Mobile?

        Why not the US? According to the article, t's the US that has already said the band will be available exclusively for Wi-Fi.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: 6GHz Mobile?

          Because historically the US has done mobile phones a little bit differently to here in Europe (CDMA vs GSM, slightly different frequencies, etc). Both markets large enough to justify making different models (and, for some reason, different SoCs in the same models depending on region like Snapdragon vs Exynos).

          But, yeah, if 6 GHz is for WiFi in parts (all?) of the EU and the US, it would be strange to have the UK doing it's own thing...

    4. Xalran

      Re: 6GHz Mobile?

      Sadly smaller cells at 900Mhz ( or 1800, or 2400 ) won't provide a better bandwidth. ( or said another way a faster browsing ).

      For that you need to go into higher frequencies and use tricks like ODFM. That's why they want to exend in the 6GHz domain.

      The corrolary of frequencies that high is that small cells would be better, they become mandatory. It's a radio transmission thing, but in layman term : the higher the frequency shorter is the range at a given power of emission, and since a mobile network are restricted in how much power they can emit, they hit physical limitations in cell size.

  4. saltycupcakes

    This seems unenforceable imo given that WiFi 6E kit is freely available and will just be set to the US locale by techies looking for extra performance because nobody really cares if their WiFi is technically in violation of something that will be so common ofcom won't be able to police it.

    Phone network providers should stick to the lower end of the spectrum, I don't care about high speed Internet standing in the middle of the street, you'd get your phone nicked in most places if you even tried to use it, I'd be more than happy with consistent mediocre speed (1 MBPS) inside shops and on trains.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Windows

      I'd like to think that said kit will have a red triangle printed on it, while approved kit will have a green circle.

      The ones with the red triangle will, as is usual, be so much better and faster...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Red triangles

        > The ones with the red triangle will, as is usual, be so much better and faster...

        A bit like when Channel 4 used a Red Triangle on late night shows to let you know if it was worth watching...

        Yes I am old.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Red triangles

          Bass got there first with a red triangle. UK registered trademark nº 1.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Red triangles

            Every day's a school day.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Devices will need approval to be sold legally in any particular jurisdiction. I'm already limited in 5 GHz because of the proximity of the local airport where the radar tower regularly sends a signal telling routers to dump traffic on most channels. And, if there is any kind of spectrum auction for new frequencies, bidders could reasonably expect similar provisions. Anyone who violates could be identified quickly and possibly even sanctioned.

      However, this is one of the main reasons why spectrum bands tend to be either opened or close and occaisonally repurposed. Given the potential for contention I'd be surprised to see anyone wanting to bid for spectrum without appropriate safeguards. Then, as others have pointed out, there are the problems of the much shorter range at such frequencies, driving up costs to provide services.

      But I'm also not particularly keen on yet more unlicensed spectrum for wifi.

      1. saltycupcakes

        All you have to do is lookup weather radar interference to see how successful restricting the 5 Ghz frequency has been (not effective at all).

        Just because a piece of paper says its restricted isn't going to stop Steve from using his American phones hotspot or Ivan from screwing with it for giggles.

        Expecting allocated spectrum to be free of interference is arrogant at best and if your system be whatever it is, is unable to handle it, that's on the system designer.

        Imo it's Boeing and Airbuses fault for designing half arsed radio altimeters that don't have any mitigations or perform sanity checks on the data.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Depends on the law. It would definitely be a criminal offence here and it would likely be tracked down quickly, at least near the airport. And importing and distributing unlicensed radio equipment is illegal.

          But, as I noted, and you sort of imply, the potential problems are likely to reduce the commercial value of such spectrum, making the point somewhat moot.

        2. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

          >>Imo it's Boeing and Airbuses fault for designing half arsed radio altimeters that don't have any mitigations or perform sanity checks on the data

          When the altimiters were designed there wasn't any need to mitigate for interference - nothing used the spectrum. They aren't updated for one reason: Cost

          It could be argued that the johnny come latelies should have ensured that their new frequency spaffing shiny gear didn't interfere with the pre-exiting altimeters... or, perhaps, the installers of said johnny come lately gear should foot the bill for type approval and replacement of all radio altimeters affected by their frequency hogs; no? I didn't think so....

        3. Xalran

          Just Boeing & the American Airlines... Airbus is not involved in that mess.

          And it's a purely American issue where airlines couldn't be arsed to upgrade the altimeters when 5G was defined and warnings that they had to update equipments were sent.

          ( which occured years before the first 5G RAN went live )

    3. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      "I don't care about high speed Internet standing in the middle of the street, you'd get your phone nicked in most places if you even tried to use it"

      Wow. You have a very warped understanding of the prevalance of roberry in the UK.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gotta merge

    Wi-Fi and Mobile should eventually become the same protocol. Or at least interop.

    When I’m at home my phone should connect to my Wifi router. Ditto anywhere I can get open Wifi.

    Telephone calls should give up and just go over IP.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Gotta merge

      There are plenty of reasons why WiFi and LTE can't be the same, but they are converging, especially after 4G went IP for most stuff. For years phones have had the option to use WiFi for calls where possible and Pico cells can be set up inside buildings to run 4G over the local network. But WiFi itself is missing a lot of tools that you need to manage commercial networks and, of course, unregulated spectrum invites contention.

    2. Xalran

      Re: Gotta merge

      They already interoperate... to an extend.

      You can integrate a wifi network in a 4G or 5G network... the caveat here is that it's a specific wifi network... If you want to integrate multiple wifi networks you will need to multiply the equipment for the integration by the number of wifi networks you want to integrate...

      So basically the only business case where it's worthwile to bother thinking about it is when you build a Private Mobile Network.

      As for mobile phone connecting to the wifi when at home... Mine does that seamlessly... and generally in Europe everybody can do it with the triple play boxes we have it's just a matter of allowing the mobile to connect to the wifi network.

      as for phone calls... on Mobile, since 3G calls are full IP. ( that's part of the IMS acronym that handle calls : IP Multimedia Subsystem )

  6. demonwarcat

    Personally I am of the opinion that the whole of the 6GHz band should be allocated to wifi. I know that the mobile phone companies will attempt to claim any spare frequency but generally the issues with mobile are poor indoor coverage which 6GHz is unlikely to improve and lack of coverage in rural areas which also not well suited to deployment of 6GHz. Since most people address the first issue by using WiFi and the second is better addressed using lower frequencies the average user will get a better result from the UK following the US and allocating 6GHz to wifi followed by a rollout of 802.11be by ISPs.

  7. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Range

    Given the "record transmission range" for 6g set in 2021 was 100m, how do you implement this as a phone system without making the country look like an aerial hedgehog?

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