Spectrum for wireless broadband – 5G

This page provides an overview of ECC's activities on harmonisation of spectrum for 5G.

This page contains the following information:

  1. Overview of 5G
  2. CEPT roadmaps for 5G and beyond - related ECC activities
  3. WRC-19 outcomes on 5G
  4. WRC-23 outcomes on 5G
  5. EC Mandates on 5G
  6. Other 5G activities
  7. Towards 6G
  8. Additional background information

1. What is 5G?

ECC has recognised the importance of the fifth generation of mobile technology referred to as ‘5G’ (also known as IMT-2020). 5G was listed as a specific major topic in the ECC strategic plan for 2015- 2020, while the more recent strategic plan for 2020-2025 also recognises the continued importance of wireless broadband connectivity, including mobile broadband.

5G can provide seamless coverage, high data rate, low latency, low power and highly reliable communications. Use cases include enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine type communications (M2M), Internet of Things (IoT), healthcare, home automation, industrial automation and sensors.

5G technical requirements

The aim of 5G is to improve on the performance of previous generation systems.  As described in ITU-R Recommendation M.2083, the general performance objectives can be quantified as follows:

  • Peak data rate: tens of Gbit/s
  • User experienced data rate: 100 Mbit/s to 1 Gbit/s
  • Connection density: 1 million connections per km2
  • End-to-end latency: millisecond level
  • Traffic volume density: 10 Mbit/s per m2
  • Mobility:up to 500 km/h

Different players from various ‘vertical’ domains (i.e. different industry branches) can be brought together using the 5G ‘slicing’ concept. The network capabilities are intended to match the requirements of the different vertical players.


Figure 1: An example of 5G Vision and Usage Scenarios (Source: ITU-R Recommendation M.2083)


5G deployments in CEPT

2020 saw the start of significant rollout of 5G in CEPT countries, with further developments throughout 2021 and 2022. The ECC's activities to facilitate these deployments are described in the following sections.

Further details on the status of 5G in EU Member States are available from the European 5G Observatory, and in non-EU countries from the ITU.


2. CEPT roadmaps for 5G and beyond - Relevant ECC activities

The 43rd ECC Plenary meeting in November 2016, approved a comprehensive list of actions regarding the fifth generation of mobile technology (5G) named the CEPT roadmap for 5G. The roadmap identified CEPT’s actions for 5G, taking into account the views from all stakeholders expressed during the CEPT Workshop on 5G from 2-4 November 2016 in Mainz. The latest and final version of this roadmap includes the updates adopted during the 52nd ECC Plenary meeting (3-6 March 2020) to reflect the outcome of ECC activities. A new future looking roadmap, addressing '5G and beyond' was launched at the 54th ECC Plenary meeting in November 2020 (latest updated by ECC#62 in July 2023).

The targets of the original roadmap included harmonisation of spectrum for 5G, preparation for relevant WRC agenda items, consideration of vertical industry needs and other spectrum challenges. The new roadmap built on the completed activities from the first roadmap and also looks towards future technological developments such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, in order to identify any potential need for ECC work in these areas in future.

The roadmaps identify the related ECC activities (such as Work Items in the ECC Work Programme) and the areas where further considerations are expected.

In July 2023 ECC agreed to conclude on the 5G and beyond roadmap, with a view to developing a future 6G roadmap.

Harmonisation measures for 5G - pioneer bands

As identified in the first CEPT roadmap, ECC PT1 has completed work on harmonisation measures for 5G in the following 'pioneer' bands:

  •  3.4–3.8 GHz: this band was already harmonised within Europe for Mobile/Fixed Communication Networks (MFCN) through ECC Decision(11)06.
    • Activities have been carried out to review the harmonised technical conditions contained in this Decision to ensure their suitability for 5G. ECC Report 281 with proposed updates to the technical conditions was published in July 2018. The updates reflect the use of Active Antenna Systems (AAS) for 5G. ECC Decision(11)06 was updated accordingly in October 2018.
    • ECC Report 287, published in October 2018, provides  guidelines to help administrations in defragmenting the 3.4-3.8 GHz band, in which there are existing licences in many CEPT countries.
    • ECC Report 296, published in March 2019, provides guidance to administrations on the regulatory options for synchronisation in the band, in particular, to enable unsynchronised and semi-synchronised operation of MFCN.
    • Cross-border coordination has been addressed in amendments of ECC Recommendation (15)01, most recently in June 2022, and a new ECC Recommendation (20)03 published in October 2020. ECC Report 331, published in November 2021, identifies solutions to ensure efficient usage of spectrum in cross-border areas, the conclusions of which were addressed in the most recent amendement of ECC Recommendation (15)01.
    • ECC Recommendation (21)02, published in November 2021, provides guidance on the application of the least restrictive technical conditions  in ECC Decision (11)06 to ensure protection of the military radiolocation systems operating below 3.4 GHz from indoor non-AAS small cells.
  • 24.25-27.5 GHz: CEPT identified the 26 GHz band for early European harmonisation, as it provides over 3 GHz of contiguous spectrum and more favourable propagation than the higher frequency bands under consideration.
    • Compatibility and protection, as appropriate, with all existing services in the same and adjacent frequency bands, in particular the protection of existing and future EESS/SRS earth stations should be addressed.
    • As a result, ECC PT1 developed  ECC Decision (18)06 setting the harmonised conditions for the introduction of 5G in the 26 GHz band. The ECC Decision was adopted by ECC and published in July 2018. An update was finalised in November 2020 taking into account the WRC-19 outcome for this band (see below for details).
    • In addition, ECC PT1 was tasked to develop "toolboxes" for national administrations to manage the coexistence of 5G with FS, with EESS/SRS and FSS earth stations and also to consider regulatory options for synchronisation in the band:
      • ECC Recommendation (19)01 on coexistence with EESS/SRS earth stations was published in March 2019.
      • ECC Report 303 on coexistence with fixed links was published in July 2019
      • ECC Report 307 on the regulatory framework for synchronisation was published in March 2020.
      • ECC Recommendation (20)01 ensuring existing and future transmitting FSS earth stations can continue to operate without impact on 5G deployment was published in March 2020.
    • Cross-border coordination was addressed in ECC Recommendation (23)02 published in July 2023

See also the information below on the related EC Mandate addressing these bands.

Review of existing MFCN harmonised spectrum for suitability for 5G

ECC has already harmonised more than 1200 MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband in the frequency range from 694 MHz to 3.8 GHz. Bands within this frequency range have been under study for over 20 years with an aim to increase the availability of bands for mobile broadband.

Relevant MFCN deliverables for frequency bands of interest can be viewed in this document, or by using the EFIS search function (select ‘MFCN’ under ‘level 2 application terms’).

ECC PT1 has undertaken work to adapt the harmonised regulatory framework in several existing frequency bands to account for 5G (e.g. to accommodate the needs of networks based on small cells and Active Antenna Systems), in addition to the update of technical conditions in 3.4-3.8 GHz described above:

See also the information below on the related EC Mandate addressing these bands.

ECC PT1 has reviewed conditions in 2.3-2.4 GHz with ECC Report 347 published in November 2022, the conclusions of which are incorporated in an amendment of ECC Decision (14)02 published in March 2023.

ECC has agreed that the existing ECC Decisions in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 1.5 GHz bands are already suitable for 5G since the technical conditions in these Decisions are technology neutral and there is no plan to implement Active Antenna Systems in these bands. In the 1.5 GHz band, 40 MHz of spectrum for supplementary downlink (SDL) for MFCN was previously harmonised in 1452-1492 MHz through ECC Decision(13)03. In 2017 ECC PT1 developed a new ECC Decision(17)06 to additionally harmonise the surrounding frequency bands (1427-1452 MHz and 1492-1518 MHz) in order to provide a total of 89 MHz of contiguous harmonised spectrum for MFCN.

Other issues to address

The first CEPT roadmap identified several actions addressing  the requirements of vertical industries in the context of 5G (e.g. PPDR, industrial automation, automotive, utilities, rail, …). These have been considered, as appropriate by ECC PT1 and WG FM in their related activities. The ECC held a workshop to discuss the requirements of vertical sectors on 2-3 May 2019.

The first roadmap also identified a need to take into consideration what satellite solutions can bring for 5G. PT FM44 developed ECC Report 280 on this issue in cooperation with ECC PT1. The Report was published in May 2018 and identifies the main use cases where satellite could play a role in 5G.

Other issues, such as new sharing opportunities and challenges (e.g. MIMO), considerations on authorisation regimes, infrastructure and backhaul requirements for 5G will also need to be addressed. The new roadmap also considers the potential role of technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.

Research activities

The ECC strategic plan 2015-2020, with additional guidance from the ECC Steering Group, tasked ECO to engage with relevant research activities focusing on 5G. In this context, ECO agreed to participate in the advisory board of the COHERENT project. This was one of the H2020 5G-PPP projects funded by the European Commission, which aimed to research, develop and showcase a unified programmable control framework for 5G heterogeneous radio access networks. The project ended in June 2018. ECO has also collaborated with JRC to arrange a workshop during EUCNC 2021. Similar collaborations are planned for future conferences.


3. WRC-19 outcomes on 5G

The global harmonisation of suitable spectrum for 5G, referred to as IMT-2020 in ITU terminology, was one of the most high-profile topics at WRC-19.

5G requires very high data rates and much larger bandwidths than ever before (up to several GHz), which can only be found in higher frequency bands above 24 GHz. CEPT participated in the intensive debates on this issue during the preparations and in the course of WRC-19.

ECC PT1 was tasked with the responsibility of CEPT CPG preparation for this agenda item and undetook studies in priority bands according to the CEPT 5G roadmap. ECC PT1 participated in the relevant ITU-R activities in Task Group 5/1. In addition, ECC PT1 actively participated in ITU-R activities on IMT-2020/5G in WP 5D, including work on technical requirements and evaluation of 5G candidate technologies.

The following bands were identified as priority bands for CEPT and were reflected in the CEPT 5G roadmap:

    • 24.25-27.5 GHz
    • 40.5-43.5 GHz
    • 66-71 GHz

ECC PT1 developed the CEPT Brief and ECPs to propose IMT identification in these bands, and also developed positions in the other bands. The final set of ECPs was adopted by the CPG in August 2019.

The discussion at WRC-19 focussed on the bands 24.25-27.5 GHz, 37-43.5 and 66-71 GHz, encompassing all the CEPT priority bands. Global IMT identification and conditions were agreed for all these bands.

The Conference also defined emission limits in the band 23.6-24 GHz used for weather forecasting applications, in order to protect passive services in adjacent bands without putting undue constraints on 5G equipment. A two-step approach was defined, where limits of -33 dBW/200 MHz will apply until September 2027. At that point a more stringent limit of -39 dBW/200 MHz will be applicable.

Footnotes in the Radio Regulations were agreed to identify the bands 45.5-47 GHz and 47.2-48.2 GHz for 5G usage in certain countries, mainly outside Europe.

Further details on the discussions during WRC-19 are available in the CEPT weekly reports from the Conference.

As a consequence of the outcome of WRC-19, ECC PT1 has completed work in 2020 to revise ECC Decision (18)06 to update the limits in 23.6-24 GHz, and in November 2022 on harmonisation of the 40.5-43.5 GHz band (see the list of deliverables below). In March 2020 the ECC provided a response to an EC request regarding the limits in the 23.6-24 GHz passive band, recommending to adopt the WRC-19 limits in the updated EU legislation, but with a revised timeframe of 2024 for the second step.

The following deliverables for the 40.5-43.5 GHz band were approved in November 2022:


4. WRC-23 outcomes on 5G

ECC PT1 led on CEPT preparation for the agenda items/issues for WRC-23 related to mobile spectrum/IMT (not limited to 5G). The following main outcomes were achieved:

  • 1.2 – IMT mid-band: identification of 6425-7025 MHz within Region 1 and 7025-7125 MHz globally for the future development of IMT
  • 1.3 – 3600-3800 MHz: upgrade of mobile allocation to primary in Region 1
  • 1.4 – HIBS: agreed conditions for the use of high-altitude platform stations as IMT base stations (HIBS) in certain bands below 2.7 GHz
  • 9 Article 21.5 – revisions to take account of the applicability of limits to active antenna systems (AAS).

More details on the outcomes can be found in the ECC Newsletter summary and the CEPT weekly reports from the Conference.

5. EC Mandates on 5G

In December 2016, the European Commission issued a Mandate to CEPT to harmonise technical conditions for the development of EU-wide 5G equipment. The Mandate addresses the same bands identified in the CEPT roadmap (3.6 GHz and 26 GHz), so is linked to the existing harmonisation activities within ECC PT1 as outlined above. ECC PT1 developed 2 CEPT Reports (CEPT Report 67 on 3.6 GHz and CEPT Report 68 on 26 GHz) on harmonisation measures. These Reports were sent to the EC in July 2018 and formed the basis of updates to the relevant EC framework. In 2019 the EC provided additional requests to CEPT on the following issues:

In September 2018 the EC issued a 2nd Mandate to CEPT to address updates to the relevant EC regulations in the 900/1800 MHz bands, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz, based on the corresponding ECC Decisions described above. ECC PT1 completed work on the first stage of this Mandate with CEPT Report 72 published in July 2019 addressing the 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz bands, as well as initial information for the 900 and 1800 MHz bands. A more comprehensive review of the conditions in 900 MHz and 1800 MHz is included in CEPT Report 80 finalised in July 2021. This CEPT Report contains proposed updates to the existing regulations in these bands in order to make them technology neutral, through the use of block edge masks instead of references to specific technologies.

In April 2020 the EC issued a 3rd Mandate to CEPT to harmonise the millimetre wave bands 40-5-43.5 GHz and 66-71 GHz, following the WRC-19 outcome for these bands (see details below). ECC PT1 developed CEPT Report 82 to address the 40 GHz band which was published in November 2022 (see above for further details), while the 66-71 GHz band was addressed by WGFM through CEPT Report 78 published in March 2021, taking into account the existing technology neutral framework in this band.


6. Other 5G activities

Information on other 5G related activities within the ECC which are not addressed on this page can be found in the latest version of the Roadmap, including ECC PT1's work on mobile communications on-board aircraft and vessels, radio altimeter coexistence and aerial UE harmonisation, and SE21 activities on measurements of active antenna systems.

7. Towards 6G

The evolution of future cellular technologies from 5G to 6G is currently under research in academia and industry. In this context,  in June 2023 the ECC held a workshop on 6G exploring various areas such as the current status of work on 6G, the key drivers, technology and applications, the possible usage scenarios cases and the resulting spectrum requirements. Full details including the presentations are available at the workshop webpage.

The ECC is currently discussing a future 6G roadmap.

8. Additional background information on 5G

The ECC has published various newsletter articles related to 5G during recent years:

Further background information is available in the webpage of the 2016 CEPT workshop for 5G.

In addition, ECC officials have delivered presentations at various conferences and events regarding the subject.

Updated: 25 March 2024, 16:29
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