UK telco regulator says global harmonisation in at least one frequency band is critical to ecosystem development.

Ofcom on Wednesday published a progress report on its work to allocate spectrum for 5G services, and said it is backing the 26 GHz band as the "priority band" for global harmonisation.

The U.K. telco watchdog said it has worked closely with other regulators in Europe to identify three initial frequency bands to enable 5G in Europe: the 700 MHz, 3.4 GHz-3.8 GHz, and the 26 GHz bands.

"We already have plans in place to make the 700 MHz band available for mobile services including 5G," Ofcom said.

Indeed, the regulator intends to clear the frequencies, used mainly by TV broadcasters and for programme-making and special events (PMSE), by 2020. While that work is ongoing, Ofcom plans to auction 700-MHz licences in 2018-2019.

"We will seek to include a coverage obligation as one of the conditions of using this spectrum. We will consult on this new obligation, and on the conditions for the award," Ofcom said.

When it comes to 3.4-GHz-3.8-GHz spectrum, Ofcom plans to auction a chunk of frequencies in the 3.4 GHz-3.6 GHz range later this year. As for 3.6 GHz-3.8 GHz, a consultation on allocating the spectrum for mobile services closed in December 2016. Ofcom is currently reviewing the responses and will publish an update during the first half of 2017.

Ofcom said it is also considering whether the 32 GHz, 40 GHz, and 66 GHz-71 GHz bands can also be used for 5G further down the line.

Ofcom is particularly excited about the 26 GHz band though.

"This band represents significant advantages compared to other millimetre wave (mmWave) bands. It already has a mobile allocation in the ITU Radio Regulations across most of the band, this makes it feasible for other countries to start using it for 5G ahead of WRC-19 (World Radiocommunication Conference 2019)," Ofcom said.

Ofcom said it has begun drawing up proposals to make 26-GHz spectrum available for mobile use in the U.K., and plans to launch a consultation in the first half of this year.

"We are supportive and are actively promoting this band as the priority millimetre wave band for global harmonisation," Ofcom said. "Achieving early global harmonisation, of at least one 5G band, is critical to the development of a global 5G ecosystem."

Ofcom said it needs to take into consideration current users of the band, namely: point-to-point wireless links for mobile backhaul and TV broadcasting; Earth stations for Earth exploration satellite systems (EESS), which collect data such as satellite imagery and climate data; and data relay satellite systems, which are used for relaying environmental, weather, and disaster-monitoring data collected by low Earth orbiting satellites.

"We are contributing to international coexistence studies aimed at identifying the appropriate technical conditions to enable shared access to the band," Ofcom said.