Does 5G interfere with links with satellites? This is what the telecoms regulator will verify

The telecoms regulator intends to ensure that the deployment of 5G does not disrupt certain links with satellites. Operators have obligations in this area. It’s a matter of seeing how that goes in practice, now that the deployment is underway.

The deployment of 5G in France began at the end of 2020 for the four major operators, Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile. Eight months have passed since the opening of the first networks: today, the Electronic Communications Regulatory Authority (Arcep) wants to verify that the frequencies dedicated to 5G do not disturb the satellites.

In this task, the telecoms regulator intends to focus specifically on the 3.5 GHz band, which is the core band of 5G. In all, three bands are used in France, with the frequencies 700 MHz and 2.1 GHz, but these are already well known, because these are bands that were used for 4G and are now recycled. for 5G.

5G exploits portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, as they are wireless links (otherwise you would have a wire between your smartphone and a cell tower, which wouldn’t be really convenient). More specifically, it is radio waves that are used to carry communications. These radio waves have varying frequencies and wavelengths.

Ensure good cohabitation between all wireless links

However, it turns out that 5G is not the only one to fall into this category: there are also satellite links. Specifically, we find the earth stations of the fixed-satellite service. As Arcep reminds us, these installations operate in the band from 3.8 to 4.2 GHz. However, the so-called 3.5 GHz 5G band itself is spread between 3.4 and 3.8 GHz. They are in fact adjacent.

By allocating 5G licenses to the four operators in this band, the regulator was obviously not unaware of the proximity of 5G to the fixed satellite service. In fact, in the decisions of November 2020 authorizing Orange, Free Mobile, SFR and Bouygues Telecom to operate frequencies between 3.4 and 3.8 GHz, these constraints were taken into account and measures enacted.

Thus, in the decision concerning Orange, we can read for example that the operator ” is required not to cause harmful interference from base stations in its mobile network using frequencies in the band 3.4 – 3.8 GHz to earth stations in the fixed-satellite service in the band 3.8 – 4.2 GHz “. Similar requirements exist for the other three operators.

A support for relay antennas. // Source: Coyotechnical, Pixabay

In addition to these general obligations, the decisions are accompanied by technical indications and thresholds indicating in which cases interference is admissible. They also give themselves room to change the regulatory framework and thus ensure coexistence between operators operating 5G and earth stations. It is in this context that a public consultation was launched on July 27, 2021.

Indeed, now that 5G has been deployed for eight months, it is possible to identify concrete cases of bad neighborhood. ” This consultation aims to respond to possible situations of harmful interference that 5G mobile networks, which are being deployed in the 3.4 – 3.8 GHz band, are likely to cause to earth stations. », Writes the regulator.

Stakeholders have until the end of October 2021 to provide their insight. According to the feedback, the technical conditions organizing this coexistence could change, whether over the duration and intensity of the interference, but also in the areas where it occurs. However, Arcep promises to take into account the requirements imposed on operators to rapidly deploy 5G.

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