Can I use 60GHz for PtP or PtMP links in the UK ?

Wireless Wire Dish

The arrival earlier this year of the MikroTik Wireless Wire and shortly after the MikroTik Wireless Wire Dish caused a large amount of excitement in the WISP industry and sales have proven them to be very popular products.  The use of 60GHz instead of 5GHz for point to point and point to multi-point links opens many new possibilities and challenges.

60GHz offers substantially less interference and much higher throughput speeds. Less interference because the band is almost completely unoccupied, uses very narrow radio antenna beams therefore offers much higher co-located frequency re-use. Also much higher throughput is possible up to as high as 1Gbps Full Duplex.

The downside however is that 60GHz is the resonant frequency of Oxygen.  Therefore there is severe attenuation of the radio signal in air and the maximum distance is not as far as 5GHz, usually only up to around 1.5km.

Let’s start with a little history – The 60GHz band was opened up for unlicensed outdoors fixed point to point use back in 2009 by the release of this Ofcom document. The intention of Ofcom was that the 59-64GHz band would open up a new era for anyone wishing to operate a high powered outdoors fixed point to point system without requiring them to be licensed by Ofcom. At the time they followed the recommendations made by the European Research Council (ERC) by mandating that any fixed installation must have a minimum of a 30dBi antenna.

“Ofcom has decided to incorporate this minimum antenna gain of 30 dBi into the technical conditions to ensure that narrow beam antennas are employed. This decision will also bring the technical conditions into line with the new ECC recommendation ECC/REC/(09)01 that replaces ERC/REC/12-09”

Also, in the same Ofcom document on the technical table on page 2 they stated that:

“Equipment and Antennas”“Must conform to essential requirements of the RTTE and the technical conditions as set out in this statement (given below).” and also a “Minimum Antenna Gain 30 dBi”

The technical standard being referred to in the above document was later released in 2010 as an Interface Requirement. Namely, Interface Requirement 2078 or just “IR2078”.  At the time of this blog post publication, the IR2078 dated January 2018 is still the current legal situation.  I.e. all outdoor fixed point to point systems must have an antenna of 30dBi or greater.

IR2078 states that for access to the 60GHz band for unlicensed usage, equipment must comply with ETSI EN 302 217 and ECC Rec (09)01. Specifically on Page 6 it states

Reference” … “ETSI EN 302 217 – Fixed Radio Systems; Characteristics and requirements for point-to
point equipment and antennas. ECC Recommendation (09)01 – Use of the 57-64 GHz frequency band for point-to-point fixed wireless systems.

ECC Rec (09)01 Annex 1 ALSO states “The requirements are stated below:” … “Minimum antenna gain +30 dBi“. Which is why Ofcom refers to their decision being in unison with the EU decision.

So, in a nutshell, the old regulations for using 60GHz outdoors is that they must comply with IR2078, which in turn refers to ETSI EN 302 217, which says a minimum 30dBi antenna is required.

So does the Wireless Wire have a 30dBi antenna and comply with ETSI EN 302 217? No. It’s antenna gain is much lower than the minimum requirement and has been tested against ETSI EN 302 567, not ETSI EN 302 217.  Therefore as it stands at the moment, the Wireless Wire cannot be used outdoors.

Does the Wireless Wire Dish have a 30dBi antenna and comply with ETSI EN 302 217? Yes! The antenna gain is substantially higher than 30dBi, therefore the device can be used outdoors in a fixed point to point configuration.

Can the Wireless Wire Dish be used outdoors in Point to Multi Point mode? No! The ETSI document EN 302 217 clearly states that “The present document specifies the essential parameters for Point-to-point (P-P) Digital Fixed Radio Systems (DFRS) operating in frequency bands allocated to Fixed Service (FS) from 1,3 GHz to 86 GHz

But can Ofcom IR2030 which appears to also be applicable permit outdoor usage for 60GHz equipment? No. See page 34 “Equipment must not form part of a fixed outdoors installation.”

It is these two major problems that has stopped not only MikroTik but other vendors from being permitted to operate in a PtMP mode outdoors on 60GHz in the UK.

Move forward roughly 7 years and as a Gold Technology Partner of UKWISPA, we supported a campaign in 2017 to request Ofcom revisit the Fixed Wireless Access spectrum situation and look to relax the regulations.

As a result, Ofcom published a consultation document in December 2017. UKWISPA took a very active part of persuading Ofcom to relax the regulations surrounding low power 60GHz equipment being able to be used outdoors especially for WISPs.

As a result, Ofcom’s Post Consultation Statement states that they will now be taking steps in the future to liberate some of the rules regarding the usage of the products such as the Wireless Wire and Wireless Wire Dish.

The Statement document makes the following major recommendations for a future change to the current legislation after one more further consultation period ending in August 2018 with an announcement in October 2018.

Implement regulatory changes to enable new fixed outdoor use cases on a licence exempt basis” and “introduce new technical conditions to allow licence exempt use of lower power equipment operating in a fixed outdoor installation in the 57 – 71 GHz band.

Specifically for Short Range Devices compliant with IR2030 such as the Wireless Wire, Ofcom have stated that in the future they will “include a new section outlining the technical condition for wideband data transmission equipment operating at EIRP up to and including 40 dBm in a fixed outdoor installation in the 57–71 GHz band. This represents a relaxation to the fixed wireless technical condition specified in IR 2078 and is intended to facilitate equipment utilising antenna beamforming technology in a point to multipoint/mesh topology and with intelligent self-organising capability

They have also stated “We have proposed that CEPT in its review and development of less restrictive technical conditions in the 60 GHz band do not specify a minimum antenna gain requirement for equipment operating at EIRP ≤ 40 dBm“. This future relaxation may therefore very soon permit the Wireless Wire to be used both outdoors and also for both PtP and PtMP modes.

However the Wireless Wire Dish has a maximum EiRP of 52dBm and is not covered by IR2030 but IR2078.  From my analysis of the Ofcom documents I am unable to see where devices operating in excess of 40dBm EiRP (such as the Wireless Wire Dish) will in future be permitted to operate in PtMP mode. I do not however see this as a problem. The beamwidth of the Wireless Wire Dish is very narrow, it is therefore not designed to be operated as a PtMP Access Point anyway, but as a PtP link.

Therefore, if the Wireless Wire was the AP, the AP will be operating in PtMP, and if the Wireless Wire Dish were a CPE connected back to the AP, it would be operating in PtP mode exactly as defined by Ofcom who state “where wireless connectivity is provided between two specified fixed points“.

Ofcom have now published a document with the catchy title “Implementing Ofcom’s decisions on the 57-71 GHz band: Notice of proposal to make the Wireless Telegraphy (Exemption and Amendment) (Amendment)(No. 2) Regulations 2018

They have stated that “Following this consultation period, Ofcom will take into account any comments received on the drafting of the Proposed Regulations and may amend them, if considered appropriate. Ofcom plans to publish its final statement relating to the Proposed Regulations in October 2018. This statement will confirm the final version of the Proposed Regulations.” and that “The Proposed Regulations will come into force as soon as practical after making the final statement.

Although October 2018 seems a long time away still, we applaud Ofcom’s speed. UKWISPA first made approaches to Ofcom last year and already, roughly a year later Ofcom have managed to propose some substantial relaxations of the current regulations in the near future.

We therefore now await the changes to IR2030 and IR2078 in October 2018 which will then hopefully permit these relaxations to be allowed.

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