Ofcom Announces Plans To Cope With Spectrum Demand

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Ofcom reveals how it plans to manage the UK’s spectrum resources over the next decade

Ofcom has published its spectrum blueprint for the next few years, outlining the measures it will take to ensure the UK’s wireless infrastructure can cope with the anticipated explosion in bandwidth demand from smartphones, tablets and other connected devices.

The communications regulator says its ‘spectrum management strategy’ will allow the country to make the most of its finite spectrum resources through innovative methods such as spectrum and ensure that wireless services can co-exist.

It also plans to publish more information about how the UK’s spectrum holdings are used and to take the lead in discussions on international spectrum issues.

Ofcom spectrum blueprint

5G - Shutterstock © glossyplasticMobile data considerations are central to the blueprint and Ofcom will assess future demands and consider the impact these will have on other users of spectrum. It will examine the case for more spectrum to be released, possibly by reassigning the 700MHz band currently used for digital terrestrial television (DTT) for mobile broadband after 2018, while also supporting improvements in coverage and developments towards 5G connectivity.

Ofcom has previously identified 25 times more spectrum for mobile broadband, including the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum currently being used by the Ministry of Defence, which is set to be released as early as 2015. The regulator eventually hopes to release 500MHz of public sector spectrum, but says it will ensure that organisations, such as the emergency services, have the airwaves they need to operate effectively.

The blueprint also outlines Ofcom’s spectrum sharing strategy. It is already holding a major white space trial with the support of Microsoft, Google and BT, but believes the technology could be used to improve home Wi-Fi, small cells in areas of high mobile demand and to connect the hundreds of millions of interconnected devices expected to be added in the next decade.

Future demands

“As we move to an increasingly digital infrastructure across our economy it is wireless services which offer some of the most exciting opportunities for growth and innovation,” says Ed Richards, Ofcom CEO. “Our spectrum management strategy is aimed at ensuring the regulatory approach helps the UK take as many of these opportunities as possible.

“We are looking forward to working closely with people and organisations across the UK and beyond who share our ambitions for this crucial and growing area.”

Ofcom held the largest ever sale of UK spectrum in the 4G auction last year, and has recently announced it plans to charge mobile operators more for their 2G and 3G licenses to reflect the increased value of the bands. The regulator says its blueprint for future spectrum use will help the government achieve its aim of doubling the economic value of the UK’s airwaves to £100 million by 2025.

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