Ofcom Borrows Military Spectrum For Olympics

Olympic Park Landscape

The Ministry of Defence, and other agencies will all surrender spectrum to help meet demand during the Olympic Games

The Ministry of Defence is to provide Ofcom with a loan of temporary spectrum in order to help it meet expected demand during this year’s Olympic Games, an event Ofcom called “the biggest media event in history“.

Ofcom has been working on plans for meeting the six-week event’s expected demands on wireless capacity since 2006. The regulator said the Ministry of Defence is to provide the majority of the public-sector spectrum for the Games, with other spectrum resources coming from the Civil Aviation Authority, the Maritime Coastguard Agency and the Home Office.

Ofcom outlined its plan to borrow spectrum from the MoD in a consultation document in 2009.

Unused spectrum

The regulator will also make use of unused spectrum such as that freed up by the switch-off of analogue television in the capital, planned for April. It emphasised that spectrum is being provided from multiple sources, meaning there will be no dependency on any one source.

“The UK’s airwaves are already among the most intensively used in the world: the games will significantly increase demand,” said Ofcom chief operating officer Jill Ainscough in a statement.

The spectrum will be needed to serve the needs of security and emergency services, organisers and team members, as well as infrastructure such as wireless starter guns and timing and scoring systems, Ofcom said.

The government must also provide broadcasters with the spectrum needed for wireless cameras and microphones. Peak demand is expected at ceremonial events such as the opening and closing of the games, which are also likely to create a serious strain on the private-sector networks that will serve those attending the event.

London’s wireless infrastructure already operates at capacity, and Ofcom said it expects requirements to double during the period of the Games.


The regulator said it has been testing its measures during large-scale events such as the Royal Wedding in order to ensure that the rise in demand doesn’t pose a risk to essential services such as the radar used by airport air traffic controllers.

It has built a custom spectrum assignment system for the event to avoid interference between users and will also be deploying 90 engineers to deal with problems.

Ofcom said its wireless plans will be finalised within the next few weeks, when more details will be made available.

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