In October 2016, the French regulator, ARCEP, published a summary of the responses it received to a consultation regarding the proposed use of three new frequency bands to support the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) sector, which concluded on July 18, 2016. IoT has been earmarked as a key priority for ARCEP during 2016/2017, and the regulator hopes to use the responses to this consultation to help inform its approach to EU-level discussions on spectrum harmonization. Next, it will be revising the National Frequency Allocation Table to ensure it aligns with the EC’s approach to radio spectrum harmonization.
Greater spectrum coordination will be needed across the EU to encourage the development of IoT services
IoT is one of 12 priority areas identified by ARCEP for 2016/2017. The regulator is aiming to ensure the availability of scarce resources such as numbering, IP addresses, network codes, and access to spectrum. With France one of the first EU member states to begin addressing future spectrum requirements by auctioning the 700MHz band in 2015, ARCEP is now focused on more frequency allocations to support the growing needs of IoT. Its most recent spectrum consultation was conducted in conjunction with the National Frequency Agency (ANFR) and discussed the potential for freeing up the 863–870MHz, 870–876MHz, and 915–921MHz bands from the Ministry of Defense for use by low-power devices. The three bands are intended to be used with LPWAN and Wi‑Fi HaLow technologies to enable smart city developments (water and gas meters, parking, and public lighting), home automation (burglar alarms and smoke detectors), and e-health applications.
A similar approach has previously been adopted by the UK, where license-exempt devices, including M2M/IoT, can already access spectrum in the 870–876MHz and 915–921MHz bands. Unlike the UK however, ARCEP has so far not clearly indicated its licensing approach to these bands. To afford the greatest flexibility and encourage more innovation, the regulator should really adopt a license-exempt arrangement or apply non-exclusive licenses with no limits on the number of licenses.
Other EU member states should also consider releasing this spectrum. However, the 863–870MHz, 870–876MHz, and 915–921MHz bands will certainly not be enough on their own to meet the growing demand for IoT. Regulators should therefore look at the timely release of additional spectrum in higher bands such as 3.4–3.8GHz and frequencies above 24GHz. These bands offer a greater availability of large contiguous bandwidths and are also suitable for license-exempt applications.
Ultimately though, greater coordination will be needed across the EU to make it easier for the development of IoT services and to set universal standards that ensure devices work across borders. It is crucial that Europe avoids the delays experienced in the past, where the slow and fragmented release of spectrum for 4G negatively impacted coverage and penetration levels. The responses to the French consultation indicate a similar view, as they not only support the proposed new regulatory framework but also push for the bands to be harmonized across Europe. This feedback will be used by the ANFR to inform the country’s position in future discussions over European-level spectrum harmonization and cross-border spectrum policies, especially to support the EC’s Action Plan which was announced in September.
France (Country Regulation Overview),TE0007-000998 (March 2016)
"Proceeds from the 700MHz auction in France exceed expectations," TE0007-000961 (November 2015)
Sarah McBride, Analyst, Regulation