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5G & Spectrum in Bermuda

While a number of frequency bands already allocated in Bermuda are compatible with 5G services, as of May 2021, there are no existing 5G networks in Bermuda.

 

To build out new 5G networks, new Spectrum (or re-use of existing spectrum) will be required. All new applications for licensable spectrum must be made by licensed sectoral providers or for private use through the standard process.

 

All wireless networks (whether new spectrum or changes to existing wireless network elements) will be required to comply with the Appropriate Safety Standards as identified in the recent Radiofrequency and 5G Safety Final Report, Decision and Order published in May 2021. These requirements include Pre- and Post- Commissioning Exposure verification processes that are designed to ensure that all wireless networks in Bermuda comply with the Appropriate Safety Standards.

Appropriate Safety Standards and Guidelines for Bermuda

Appropriate Safety Standards for Limiting Exposure to RF-EMF and Radiation:   

 

Safety Standards vary in different jurisdictions around the world. In Bermuda, the safety standards (defined as the “Appropriate Safety Standards in the Regulatory Authority (Removal of Moratorium; Exposure to 5G Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields) General Determination 2021, with respect to human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields published by either –

  1. the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), or
  2. the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

Electromagnetic Fields - EMF

According to the World Health Organization (the “WHO”) electromagnetic fields (EMF) are present everywhere in our environment but are typically invisible to the human eye.  There are natural and man-made sources of EMF, such as ultra-violet rays that are naturally generated by the sun and medical x-ray technology, which is a man-made source.  Ofcom, the regulator of the UK’s electronic communications sector, states it is important to note that humans cannot feel or see EMF in the Radio Spectrum, but any device that communicates wirelessly needs some form of spectrum.  There is a limited amount of Spectrum available on Earth and different parts are allocated for specific uses.  For example, Radio Spectrum used to connect your computer to the internet using Wi-Fi is different from what is used for a mobile telephone.

Electromagnetic Radiation

Electromagnetic Radiation exists all around us and comes from natural sources, like the sun, and man-made sources, like radios and mobile phones.  Electromagnetic Radiation is energy that comes from a source and travels through space at the speed of light.  This energy has an electric field and a magnetic field associated with it.  The energy has wave-like properties and is also referred to as radiation electromagnetic waves (or radio waves when the frequencies are part of the Radio Spectrum).

 

Radiation from the Electromagnetic Spectrum is split between Ionizing and Non-Ionizing Radiation.  The dividing line between Ionizing and Non-Ionizing Radiation occurs in the ultraviolet part of the Electromagnetic Spectrum.  Radiation in a part of the ultraviolet band and at lower energies (to the left of ultraviolet) is called Non-Ionizing Radiation, while at the higher energies to the right of the ultraviolet band is called Ionizing Radiation.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

The Electromagnetic Spectrum is the range of all types of electromagnetic radiation. Radiation is energy that travels and spreads out as it goes – the visible light that comes from a lamp in your house and the radio waves that come from a radio station are two types of electromagnetic radiation.

Frequency Bands

Radio Spectrum is divided up into frequency bands which are then allocated to certain services.  The wider the frequency bands and channels, the more information that can be passed through them. The move towards wider – or broader – frequency bands that can carry larger amounts of information is one of the most important trends in telecommunications and directly relates to what we refer to as a ‘broadband’ connection.

 

In the same way that wider roads mean you can add more lanes to support more vehicle traffic, wider bands mean you can add more channels to support more data traffic.

 

Lower frequency bands provide wider coverage because they can penetrate objects effectively and thus travel further, including inside buildings. However, they tend to have relatively poor capacity capabilities because this spectrum is in limited supply so only narrow bands tend to be available.

 

In contrast, signals in the higher frequency bands are easily weakened or interrupted by obstacles such as buildings or occasional changes in weather. Therefore, advanced technologies that use higher frequency bands, require antennas to be installed within closer distances to minimize these possible interruptions in service.  However, higher frequency bands tend to have greater capacity because there is a larger supply of high frequency Spectrum making it easier to create broad frequency bands, which allows more data and information to be carried.

Frequency Bands used in Bermuda

There are several radiofrequency bands that are currently in use in Bermuda.  Examples of these bands include:

  • VHF Radio operation in the 150-174 MHz range
  • UHF Radio operation in the 400 MHz range
  • Wireless Television operation in the 500-700 MHz range
  • Mobile Telephone operation in the 700-900 MHz and 1.8-2 GHz ranges
  • Microwave backhaul operations in a variety of ranges from 5-24 GHz
  • Fixed Wireless operations in a variety of ranges from 2-28 GHz

 

Several frequency bands (most notably elements of the 700 MHz, 850 MHz, 1900 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2500 MHz, and 3500 MHz bands) have been designated as High Demand Spectrum subsequent to a Ministerial public consultation process in 2016. These bands attract usage-based fees that are paid to the Government of Bermuda and are typically used by mobile telephone and data service providers.

 

Consistent with the US FCC band allocation table, there are several frequency bands that are deemed not to require a licence. These include the FCC Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) bands in the 915 MHz, 2450 MHz, 5800 MHz, 24.124 GHz, 61.25 GHz, 122 GHz, and 245 GHz bands.

Frequency Bands used in 5G Technology

The frequency bands used by 5G as defined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) include two frequency bands:

  • Frequency Range 1 (FR1) incorporating sub 6 GHz frequency bands; and
  • Frequency Range 2 (FR2) incorporating frequency bands in the mmWave range (24-100 GHz).

Ionizing & Non-Ionizing Radiation

Ionizing Radiation is “a form of energy that acts by removing electrons from atoms and molecules of materials that include air, water, and living tissue.”  Ionizing Radiation, including gamma rays and x-rays, is produced with much shorter wavelengths that carry much higher energy frequencies.

 

Non-Ionizing Radiation is “a form of radiation with less energy than Ionizing Radiation. Unlike Ionizing Radiation, Non-Ionizing Radiation does not remove electrons from atoms or molecules of materials that include air, water and living tissue.”  Non-Ionizing Radiation differs from Ionizing Radiation in the way it acts on materials like air, water and living tissue.

Radiofrequencies

All wireless technologies use radiofrequencies to communicate with other devices, like TVs, radios, Wi-Fi, and mobile phones.  Radiofrequencies, also referred to as radio waves, are measured by wavelength and frequency and are considered elements of Radio Spectrum, which is part of the wider Electromagnetic Spectrum.

 

It is important to note that ALL radiofrequencies within the Radio Spectrum are classified as Non-Ionizing Radiation.

Radio Spectrum

What is the Radio Spectrum?  Radio Spectrum, also referred to as radio waves or radiofrequencies, is part of the Electromagnetic Spectrum and contains frequencies from 3kHz (Kilo Hertz) to 300 GHz (Giga Hertz).  In terms of wavelength, the low frequencies are about 30 km long and the high frequencies are about 3mm long.

 

In Bermuda, Radio Spectrum is assigned and regulated by the RA to help avoid interference between the wireless services that are carried on various radio frequencies.

 

The Electromagnetic Spectrum is divided according to the frequency of the waves which are measured in Hertz (waves per second). Radio waves or radiofrequencies are typically referred to in terms of:

  • kilohertz (kHz), a thousand waves per second
  • megahertz (MHz), a million waves per second
  • gigahertz (GHz), a billion waves per second

 

The entire range of Radio Spectrum on the Electromagnetic Spectrum is classified as Non-Ionizing Radiation.

Radio Spectrum Assignment in Bermuda

Radio Spectrum is assigned and managed by local and international agencies, to help avoid interference between the wireless services that are carried on these various radio frequencies.

 

In Bermuda, the Bermuda Government Ministerial Spectrum Policy of 2016 states that Bermuda follows the United States Federal Communications Commission’s “FCC” “frequency allocations and band plans as much as practicable so that Bermuda may benefit from the interoperability of, and all available economies of scale for, radiocommunications equipment.”

 

Radio Spectrum in Bermuda is managed by the RA.  Applicants wanting to use licensable Radio Spectrum in Bermuda are required to apply to the Regulatory Authority using the processes detailed in the Grant of Spectrum Licences, Permits and Exempted Frequencies General Determination.

Uses of Radio Spectrum

Radio Spectrum is used to communicate information wirelessly using many different technologies ranging from AM/FM Radio to Mobile Telephones. Applications important for society such as radio/television broadcasting, civil aviation, satellites, mobile telephones, Wi-Fi, defense, and emergency services all depend on specific allocations of radio frequency.

 

It is important to note that humans cannot feel or see electromagnetic waves in the Radio Spectrum, but any device that communicates wirelessly uses some form of Spectrum.  There is a limited amount of Spectrum available on Earth and different parts are allocated for specific uses.  For example, Radio Spectrum used to connect your computer to the internet using Wi-Fi is different from what is used for a mobile telephone.