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Economy

Japanese telecoms to share wireless frequency bands

New allocation system to ease congestion as 5G era dawns

The coming 5G age is expected to worsen congestion of the already-limited wireless spectrum.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is set to allow multiple telecommunications providers to access the same wireless frequency band in a bid to ease network crowding.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications will develop a way to monitor what frequencies are being used when and where, and to parcel out unused spectrum in real time.

As the nation prepares for the spread of ultrahigh-speed 5G mobile service, access to wireless bands will be crucial to sustain good connectivity for businesses and consumers. 

Currently, operators must spend at least a month or two working out an arrangement before they can agree to share a frequency band. The new system would assign frequencies to providers based on demand. It will be supported by a detailed database tracking frequency usage.

The ministry will develop the system and decide the conditions for sharing based on existing regulations. Other wireless networks will not be impacted. The ministry aims to get the new scheme up and running in the early 2020s, when 5G is expected to be commonplace.

Spectrum is a finite public resource growing increasingly crowded because of such devices as smartphones. Japan had issued 236.95 million wireless licenses through June -- twice as many as a decade earlier. With the rise of the "internet of things" and the coming 5G age, along with applications such as automated driving and next-generation satellite-based systems, many worry about depletion.

The fiscal 2018 frequency allocation action plan due out from the ministry this fall will focus on dynamic spectrum sharing. The development of both the new system and the accompanying technology will be addressed in the fiscal 2019 national budget.

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