Ofcom announces plans to release more bandwidth for mobile services as early as next year
Ofcom is proposing to auction off 190MHz worth of 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum in late 2015 or early 2016 as part of plans to release as much bandwidth as possible in order to support future demands for wireless communications.
The communications regulator has not earmarked any specific use for the spectrum, which is currently being used by the Ministry of Defence, but says the bands are likely to interest the mobile industry due to their high capacity.
Currently, 4G networks in the UK are being built using 800MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies, but the 2.3GHz band is used for 4G services in ten countries, including China, India and Australia, and many smartphones, including the iPhone 6, are compatible.
The 3.4GHz band is used for wireless Internet in Canada, Spain and the UK, where Relish delivers superfast broadband in central London.
Ofcom says its auction will be “fair and transparent” with spectrum awarded to those who will be able to use it the most efficiently and offer the most benefit to consumers. It is intended that the airwaves will be sold in 38 lots of 5MHz and bidders can request a minimum of four lots per band.
The total amount up for grabs is equivalent to two thirds of what was available at the 4G auction last year.
The organisation says it has identified enough spectrum to boost the UK’s mobile capacity by more than 25 times by 2030, warning it is vital that efficient use of the country’s resources must be made due to increased dependence on mobile devices and services and the growth of the Internet of Things.
“Today marks an important step in ensuring that the UK has sufficient spectrum to support our wireless economy,” says Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Group Director. “It comes in response to the fast pace of change and innovation taking place in the communications sector, which is placing increased demands on how spectrum is used by all industries. One important way of meeting this demand is making new spectrum available and its use as flexible as possible.”
Future bands that could be released are the 190MHz frequencies also used by the MoD, the 2.7GHz band powering radar systems and 3.6GHz spectrum currently being used for satellite links. Ofcom could also reassign the 700MHz waves used by Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services, but this would be controversial as it would necessitate another ‘digital switchover’.
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