Navigating the Drama of Dutch Private 5G Spectrum Licensing

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The Radio and Internet Services Department (RDI) is on track to introduce private 5G local spectrum licenses in the 3.5GHz band for enterprise clients before this year comes to a close. The plan is to earmark two 50MHz blocks on the band, specifically between 3,400–3,450MHz and 3,750–3,800MHz for enterprise utilization.

The RDI has explicated that firms have the liberty to apply individually or in a cooperative arrangement to acquire this spectrum. Companies that sign up will have the entitlement to these licenses until the close of 2040. The RDI’s announcement underscores the range of applications these licenses can power, including the building of proprietary 5G networks.

In the RDI’s words, companies will have the capability to “jointly or separately, build their own 5G network, so that they can use virtual reality with their own frequencies and on their own premises, for example, or control smart, complex devices such as self-driving vehicles or robots in factories.”

The RDI is upholding a first-come, first-served approach to awarding licenses while assuring that new applicants are given the same access to frequency utilization as pre-existing license holders. The process is set to commence at the start of the following month.

Regardless, this allocation has stirred some controversy. The RDI is navigating legal hurdles from the Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam, which claim that the first-come, first-served distribution method might jeopardize their chances at securing the relevant bandwidth.

Additionally, there is a 300MHz spectrum portion within the same 3.5GHz band that is not earmarked for private network deployments. This segment, which lays between 3,450–3,750MHz, is anticipated for auction to mobile operators in the country next year.

The journey toward auctioning the 3.5GHz spectrum was not without trouble. Back in 2021, initial plans for this consequential auction were derailed by a lawsuit from satellite operator Inmarsat. The dispute, which revolved around Inmarsat’s utilization of 3.5GHz spectrum for emergency communications, took over a year to find resolution. The agreement saw Inmarsat move its impacted operations to a site in Greece.

Nonetheless, the specific date for the 5G auction remains unclear, though the RDI suggests a potential time frame in the first quarter of next year. With all these developments in play, the shift in the Dutch telecoms landscape in 2023 keeps industry professionals, and the public, on their toes.

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