French regulator Arcep is offering spectrum licences to 5G stakeholders in an effort to drive pilots of the technology.
The new initiative enables all players in the 5G value chain to access temporary licences in the 3.4 to 3.8GHz and 26GHz bands.
The regulator hopes operators will collaborate with vertical customers on the pilots to increase understanding of the technology and test business models. It will feed the results back into its allocation process for 5G spectrum licences.
The temporary licences for 3.4 to 3.8GHz are already available in the metropolitan areas of Lyon (pictured), Bordeaux, Nantes, Lille, Le Havre, Saint-Étienne, Douai, Montpellier and Grenoble. The regulator will also consider applications to provide licences for other geographical locations or spectrum bands, although it did not say when these would be offered.
Arcep also plans to run a workshop in 2018 on the conditions needed to roll out the next generation network technology. In addition, it will contribute research on 5G infrastructure sharing, frequency allocation procedures and coverage obligations to European telecoms regulator BEREC.
Members of 3GPP ratified the 5G New Radio standard at a meeting in Lisbon on 21 December, providing the model and principles for enhanced mobile broadband use cases. Work is now turning to the specification for standalone 5G ahead of its release in June this year.
The bands between 3.4 and 3.8GHz are considered pioneer frequencies for 5G due to their combination of high available bandwidth and good coverage. The higher 26GHz band which will provide extremely high capacity for data-heavy applications but suffers from low proliferation.
French operators including Orange and Bouygues are already exploring the technology.