The UK Challenge of Regulating Something that Does Not Exist

April 25, 2023

Written by Caio Castro

Amid discussions and disagreements on what 6G might look like or how it would work in the future, one conclusion is consensual: we do not know the answer yet.

Disappointing? Not necessarily. If it makes for a challenging task to predict regulations for 6G, on the other hand, the lack of certainty opens up space for innovation.

“We may need to get more creative,” said Cristina Data, Director of Spectrum Policy & Analysis at British regulator Ofcom, during a panel about policies at the 6GSymposium Spring 2023. “For 6G, we may need to do things differently regarding authorising the licenses [for example].”

The effort to develop different approaches has already started in the United Kingdom. In April, the British government announced an investment package of almost £100 million to advance 6G research, development, and standardisation.

“By capitalising on our strengths, we shape our future and play a leadership role in the international fora,” Tom Rodden, Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of the UK, pointed out in a speech at the same event. “The next 18 months will be important [for 6G development].”

All these movements shape the vision that the UK has for 6G. According to Jasper Pandza, Technical Lead for Telecoms Standards at the UK Department for Science, Innovation & Technology, the government’s priorities on the collaboration with the ITU at international discussions are:

  • Meeting societal needs
  • Ensuring interoperability and standards
  • Spectrum
  • Sustainability
  • Security

“In terms of societal needs, our main concern is coverage. We want to ensure that 6G provides connection regardless of the geographical location,” Pandza emphasised.

Another area set for improvement is license awarding. Ofcom has been testing new models in the past years, such as moving away from national licenses and starting to award community ones at a city level.

“We made spectrum available with different approaches,” Data explained. The goal is to use spectrum more efficiently, especially considering it is a scarce resource.

The Ofcom Director added that improving spectrum sharing and private networks policies is on the regulator’s radar for the coming years.

Beyond the Spectrum

However, the government’s work is not restricted to spectrum allocation. “Regulation needs to walk alongside technological evolution,” Pandza said. That’s why, according to him, one of the critical aspects of a regulator’s work is looking beyond spectrum awarding and usage policies.

“We want to ensure that security is built from the beginning of the 6G development,” Pandza explained. “It’s important that the components we want to add to 6G, like AI, are secure.

“Also, on the environmental side, we see 6G as an opportunity to develop our sustainability goals,” Pandza concluded.

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