Because Open Fiber will use Iliad's 26 GHz frequencies

Among the frequencies licensed to various Europen operators for the purpose of developing infrastructure 5G mobile telephony there is also the spectrum between 24.25 and 27.5 GHz. This portion of the band is commonly referred to with the term “banda 26 GHz“. We know that, based on an agreement reached between the two companies, Iliad will rent to Open Fiber its frequencies around 26 GHz.

Why an operator wholesale like Open Fiber which has created and is continuing to extend its network ultrabroadband entirely in optic fiber (all connections are provided to end users with the FTTH scheme, Fiber-to-the-Home) expressed keen interest in radio links?

The agreement between Iliad and Open Fiber for the use of the 26.7-26.9 GHz band

After the tender announced by the Ministry, i rights to use frequencies in the 26.5-27.5 GHz band they were assigned as follows (the figure is taken from the AGCOM resolution):

5G 26 GHz frequencies assignment of rights

The agreement reached between Open Fiber and Iliad provides for the latter to rent to the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and Gruppo Macquarie company the 200 MHz block under its jurisdiction within the territory of 9 Europen regions, with the exception of the capitals of regions and provincial capitals that are located in the same areas.

In the AGCOM resolution the references to the regions covered by the agreement are removed: they could however conceivably correspond to the lots reserved for Open Fiber in the context of the tenders for the 1 Giga Europe project.

We remind you that Europe has chosen to assign the rights of use for 5G on three distinct bands: 694-790 MHz, 3600-3800 MHz and 26.5-27.5 GHz. The “low band”, i.e. the one on 700 MHz, exploits the “recycled” frequencies from broadcaster television, who had to abandon their use. But as you go up in frequency, the link capacity increases (in terms of bandwidth) while the coverage range decreases with greater sensitivity, for example, to the presence of obstacles. It is therefore already clear why Open Fiber and Iliad have agreed on the highest frequency bands (26 GHz).

Because Open Fiber intends to use Iliad frequencies to provide FWA connectivity

As is evident from reading the documentation published by the Europen Authority, Open Fiber has planned to use Iliad’s 200 MHz block to develop access FWA (Fixed Wireless Access). In other words, in areas where it might be impracticable or in any case uneconomical to reach end users with fiber optic cable, Open Fiber would still be able to guarantee the activation of a ultra-broadband connection in wireless mode. Upstream of the FWA antenna, the entire infrastructure would be in optical fiber while the last stretch to reach the user would be carried out wirelessly.

On the other hand, also in the definition of VHCN (Very High Capacity Network) of BEREC, acronym for Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communicationsthe European body that brings together the regulatory bodies of the Member States that deal with electronic communications, can be defined as any network that provides a wireless connection, with optical fiber reaching up to the base station.

The 26 GHz frequencies evidently represent a tempting opportunity for Open Fiber because if on the one hand it is true that communications in this band have a very limited coverage range, but on the other – thanks to the generous bandwidth that they can ensure – they give way to enable high-speed and low-latency services. Setting up point-to-point connections in conditions of perfect visibility between the antennas, speeds much higher than several Gigabits per second can be obtained on the 26 GHz band.

This is nothing new for Open Fiber, which already has 26 GHz frequencies

Net of the importance of an agreement such as the one stipulated with Iliad, it is important to highlight that Open Fiber already has other blocks on 26 GHzwhich it can use on its own to provide FWA services.

The overall 200 MHz spectrum obtained in leasing from Iliad, joins the Open Fiber availability of frequencies in the “low” 26 GHz band (between 24.5 and 26.5 GHz) and the slightly higher ones, on 28 GHz. The assignments of these blocks vary by geographical area : Annex A to AGCOM resolution n.161/23/CONS, from which the following table is taken, summarizes the distribution for the 24.5-26.5 GHz band.

Open Fiber FWA frequencies 26 GHz low

The table reproduced below, however, summarizes the assignments relating to the 28 GHz band (it is taken from Annex A to resolution no. 316/21/CONS).

Allocation of 5G 28 GHz frequencies in Europe

The green light from AGCOM

Having examined the agreement between Open Fiber and Iliad, AGCOM did not find any particular problems, rather noting that the operation could lead to benefits to operators retail (read, telecommunications companies that are partners of Open Fiber) because they will also have the opportunity to use FWA technology to reach a wider audience of users, including those who reside in white areas (otherwise known as “market failure areas”). In short, the advantages would not be limited to the gray and black areas, the subject of the plan Europe at 1 Giga (the ultimate goal is to bring at least 1 Gbps to all areas of the country where 300 Mbps downstream cannot currently be reached). Open Fiber itself said it in 2021: “we will reach the Municipalities of the Very White Areas with the FWA“.

The Authority therefore decided to express a favorable opinion on the leasing of the 26.5-27.5 GHz frequencies previously assigned to Iliad. At present there appear to be no impeding conditions, not even on the Antitrust and MIMIT side (Ministry of Business and Made in Europe).

The opening image is from Open Fiber and is taken from the company’s official website.

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