Regulator proposes to boost UK satellite broadband

Ofcom, Britain’s media and telecoms regulator, recently proposed to provide 448MHz of the 28GHz band’s spectrum frequency for satellite broadband services (Earth station gateways) to help boost data speeds and expand service coverage further into remote communities.

While much of the UK can access faster broadband, businesses in rural areas can struggle with service available and satellite broadband provides a viable option for many.

Segments of the 28GHz band have already been allocated to a mixture of satellite and fixed wireless uses via two different authorisations. However, earlier in 2023 Ofcom agreed that it would vary the national Spectrum Access 28GHz licence (which is held by Arqiva), to limit the extent of its right to authorise use of the spectrum at just three locations up until July 2026. This resulted in the return of 448MHz of currently unassigned spectrum to Ofcom.

The telecommunications regulator now seeks to make the unassigned spectrum along with four guard bands (bands are typically used as separators to prevent any interference between broadband users, within the 28GHz band) available. Its plan will see them accessible to Geostationary satellite gateways and non-geostationary satellite Earth station gateways. This initiative could now be of considerable benefit to OneWeb, Starlink and other satellite broadband operators providing services in the UK.

Satellite gateways are usually positioned at single sites. As a result, they will have a limited impact on other users. Effectively this means there is still room for other users to be able to share access to the spectrum, and Ofcom will be consulting on this possibility toward the end of the year.