4.3 WiMAX Frequencies, Regulations and Availability

4.3 WiMAX Frequencies, Regulations and Availability

In this section, some of the frequencies that are expected to be used for WiMAX are given. The frequency bands that will be used in one country or another for the moment (October 2006) are:

  • Licensed bands: 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz (remember that the 2.4 GHz band is a free band used, among others, by WiFi), 3.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz, the latter being the most (geographically) widely announced WiMAX frequency band. We here mention that third-generation (3G) cellular systems operating in the 2.5 GHz band as an extension band for these systems have been reported.

  • License-exempt bands: 5 GHz. The 2004 WiMAX unlicensed frequency fixed profile used the upper U-NII frequency band, i.e. the 5.8 GHz frequency band (see Table 4.1). In the future, various bands between 5 GHz and 6 GHz can be used for unlicensed WiMAX, depending on the country involved.

Table 4.3 shows (globally) the present expected WiMAX frequencies around the world. Other frequencies are sought. These frequencies should not be higher than the 5.8 GHz already chosen because, for relatively high frequencies (3.5 GHz is itself not a very small value), NLOS operation becomes difficult, which is an evident problem for mobility. The Regulatory Working Group (RWG), introduced in Chapter 2, is trying to define both new frequencies (reports talk about 450 MHz and 700 MHz) and also the conditions for an easy universal roaming with (possible) different frequencies in different countries. Regulator requirements mainly allow both Time Division Duplexing (TDD) and Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD). The attributed frequency spectrum size is a function of the country. Some elements about the WiMAX situation in some countries are given below.

Table 4.3: Expected WiMAX frequencies (based on RWG documents)
Open table as spreadsheet

Region or country

Reported WiMAX frequency bands


2.3, 2.5 and 5.8 GHz

Central and South America

2.5, 3.5 and 5.8 GHz


3.5 and 5.8 GHz; possible: 2.5 GHz

South-East Asia

2.3, 2.5, 3.3, 3.5 and 5.8 GHz

Middle East and Africa

3.5 and 5.8 GHz

4.3.1 France

In France, as elsewhere, the authorities wish to have (at least fixed) broadband access in the highest possible percentage of the territory. WiMAX has been seen as a means to provide this broadband access. Altitude Operator (owned by Iliad) has a WiMAX license in the 3.5 GHz band. Altitude obtained it in 2003 when the regulating authority, Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunication (ART), accepted that Altitude takes a WLL license owned (and not used) by another operator. Since then, ART has changed its name to become ARCEP (Autorité de Régulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes, http://www.arcep.fr).

In August 2005, ARCEP started the process of attribution of two other WiMAX licenses (2X15 MHz each):

  • BLR 1: 3465–3480 and 3565–3580 MHz;

  • BLR 2: 3432.5–3447.5 and 3532.5–3547.5 MHz.

This process ended in July 2006 by the allocation of these two licences to two operators in each of the 22 French metropolitan regions. However, Altitude is the only French operator with a national WiMAX license. The choice was made based on three equally important criteria:

  • contribution to the territorial development of broadband access;

  • aptitude to ameliorate a high data rate concurrence;

  • allowances paid by the operator.

The operators should have a minimum number (in total) of 3500 WiMAX sites by June 2008. They will be paying 125 million euros in 2006.

4.3.2 Korea

In Korea, the frequencies attributed to WiBro are in the 2.3–2.4 GHz band. In 2002, 100 MHz bands were decided for WiBro in Korea and WiBro licenses were attributed in January 2005. The three operators are Korea Telecom (KT), SK Telecom (SKT) and Hanaro Telecom. Pilot networks are already in place (April 2006). Relatively broad coverage public commercial offers should start before the end of 2006.

4.3.3 USA

In the USA, a large number of 2.5 GHz band licenses (the BRS, or Broadband Radio Service. and the EBS, or Educational Broadband Service) and 2.3 GHz band licenses (WCS, or Wireless Communications Service) are owned by many operators. Sprint and Nextel have joined forces, providing them with by far the greatest number of population served by their license. In the USA, until now the 2.5 GHz band had often been attributed for the MMDS. However, EBS licenses have been given to educational entities so that they can be used for educational purposes and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allowed EBS license holders to lease spectra to commercial entities under certain conditions.

4.3.4 UK

Currently, two operators have BWA licenses in the UK: PCCW (UK Broadband) and Pipex. Their licenses are in the 3.4 GHz (PCCW) and 3.5 GHz (Pipex) bands. A number of smaller operators use or plan to use a license-exempt WiMAX frequency band for limited operations.

4.3.5 China

China is a country with big dimensions and a still developing telecommunications network. For the moment (October 2006), no license for commercial service of WiMAX has been allocated. However, WiMAX trials are taking place in many regions and are regularly reported. Leading Chinese telecommunications equipment suppliers, Huawei and ZTE, are reported to be active in the WiMAX field (members of the WiMAX Forum, contributing to experiments, preparing WiMAX products, etc.).

4.3.6 Brazil

Brazil is another country with high expectations for WiMAX. Auction of 3.5 GHz and 10 GHz BWA spectra were launched in July 2006. Expectations about the possible use of the 2.5 GHz band for WiMAX have been reported.