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Vodafone tests reveal 6GHz spectrum gains in last call to avoid a 5G capacity crunch

25 Oct 2023Technology news
5 minute read

Vodafone today announced it has successfully tested future mobile spectrum in the upper 6GHz frequency band. Enabling this band for mobile use will ensure consumers and businesses receive even faster and more reliable 5G services over the next five to 10 years, while avoiding a mobile capacity crunch caused by soaring demand for bandwidth.

Using a smartphone tuned to the anticipated amount of 6GHz spectrum band that will be made available in European countries, Vodafone engineers in Spain achieved download speeds of up to five gigabits-per-second (Gbps) – approximately double what today’s networks are capable of – and on average two Gbps across various indoor locations. The latter reading is especially important since around 75% of all mobile traffic originates from users at home, in the office, or in enclosed public places such as cafes, bars, shops, and gyms.

Vodafone also demonstrated that the technology has the potential to achieve comparable coverage levels to today’s 5G networks. This highlights that the band can be readily deployed on existing mobile sites cost effectively and efficiently, providing a capacity boost when current bandwidth becomes exhausted.

Vodafone is presenting its findings ahead of a crucial meeting of national regulators and industry members next month at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) in Dubai which will decide the future use of this valuable spectrum resource. Vodafone and other mobile network operators are calling for the upper 6GHz spectrum band to be allocated to International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT). This will promote the harmonisation of 5G services across different geographical regions and balance out the allocation of the lower section of the band already allocated to Wi-Fi services. That way businesses, public sector organisations and individuals across Europe get the best of both the mobile and Wi-Fi worlds.

Alberto Ripepi, Vodafone Chief Network Officer said: “Without a fair and balanced allocation of 6GHz spectrum, mobile users worldwide could face a major capacity crunch within just five years. Additional 5G spectrum would boost the digital transformation of businesses and public sector organisations, and support the European Commission’s ambition to have fast connectivity within reach of all populated areas by 2030.”

The pressure to free up more spectrum is mounting with Vodafone alone seeing demand across Europe grow by 30% every year as more devices and services such as augmented reality headsets, health sensors and vehicles, are connected to 5G. These all require mobile networks with greater processing power and capacity.

Vodafone’s latest trial shows how the quality of mobile services across both indoor and outdoor areas can be improved with the allocation of new 6GHz spectrum, allowing the industry to future-proof the progress of new services and technologies and the demands they place on the mobile network.

Note To Editors

Test Details

6GHz equipment was installed on an existing 5G site in Madrid covering Vodafone’s campus and the surrounding area, including several indoor locations. Massive MIMO antenna technology was used. This technology is already being deployed for 5G networks today to ‘beamform’ signals in the direction of individual users, maximising their signal quality and minimising network interference. A 200MHz channel (the anticipated amount of spectrum that would be made available per mobile operator in each European country) was used which is approximately double the bandwidth used for 5G services today, enabling higher speeds and capacity for evolved 5G networks.

Indoor coverage was assessed across a range of different types of buildings and at various distances from the antenna. In relatively modern glass fronted offices indoor speeds of around 2 Gbps were measured, while in other public buildings as far away as 550 metres, speeds of around 0.5 Gbps were recorded. Vodafone engineers also looked at outdoor locations completely shadowed by buildings, which is important in urban areas where users are usually not in direct sight of antennas. In this scenario, a range of similar speeds were achieved, demonstrating that 6GHz can both penetrate building façades and pass through them.

These results matched Vodafone’s expectations and highlight the value of 6GHz spectrum for public mobile services across both outdoor and indoor areas.

Mobile or Wi-Fi or Shared

As a converged provider of fixed and mobile services, Vodafone is aware that opportunities exist to use the upper 6GHz band for Wi-Fi services. However, with the lower part already assigned to this technology in many countries and 5G networks facing capacity restrictions before the end of this decade, the company and other mobile network operators strongly believe that allocating the upper section to International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) at WRC-23 is the best outcome for customers, industries, and digital societies in general.

Competing needs for the use of the band by mobile and Wi-Fi industries have resulted in some proposals for shared use of the band between these technologies in the same service area. However, its clear this would only be possible if significant restrictions were imposed on mobile base station power levels, sacrificing the performance benefits for customers as demonstrated in this trial.

As national administrations and telecom industry members gather to review and update the global use of radio frequencies in Dubai in November, Vodafone stresses the need to harmonise the use of the upper 6 GHz spectrum band for IMT without overly restrictive conditions. This will ensure a strong 5G mobile telecommunications infrastructure to drive digital economies.

About Vodafone

Vodafone is the largest pan-European and African telecoms company. Our purpose is to connect for a better future by using technology to improve lives, digitalise critical sectors and enable inclusive and sustainable digital societies.

We provide mobile and fixed services to over 300 million customers in 17 countries, partner with mobile networks in 46 more and are also a world leader in the Internet of Things (IoT), connecting over 167 million devices and platforms. With Vodacom Financial Services and M-Pesa, the largest financial technology platform in Africa, we serve more than 71 million people across seven countries.

We are committed to reducing our environmental impact to reach net zero emissions by 2040, while helping our customers reduce their own carbon emissions by 350 million tonnes by 2030. We are driving action to reduce device waste and achieve our target to reuse, resell or recycle 100% of our network waste by 2025.

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