Ofcom is to hold the largest ever single auction of additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK, equivalent to three quarters of the mobile spectrum in use today.
The new spectrum will provide capacity for the fourth generation (4G) of mobile technology, set to deliver significantly faster mobile broadband services—approaching today's ADSL home broadband speeds, according to Ofcom.
The auction will be for two spectrum bands—800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. The lower frequency 800 MHz band is part of the digital dividend, which is being freed-up as the UK switches from analogue to digital TV and can enable widespread mobile coverage. The 2.6 GHz band is at a higher frequency, and will provide the capacity needed for higher speeds.
Ofcom plans to introduce limits on the minimum and maximum amounts of spectrum that bidders can be awarded to ensure that at least four wholesale operators remain in the UK.
Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: "The auction is not only critical to the future of the UK mobile telecommunications market but it is also of significant importance to the wider economy. It will support a wide range of data services that are fast becoming essential features of the modern world.
"Our role as the independent regulator is to award this spectrum in a way that secures the best use of the spectrum for the benefit of citizens and consumers in the UK. That is why we are proposing to design the auction in a way that not only encourages investment but also promotes competition and delivers wide coverage of services."
Statistics on current 2G and 3G coverage demonstrate that coverage varies between areas of the UK, with coverage in more rural areas generally being less comprehensive than in urban areas.
Ofcom has suggested that one way of ensuring more uniformity of coverage for 4G services in the future would be to supplement the main coverage obligation with a requirement to cover a certain proportion of the population in particular areas—for example in certain rural areas. The regulator is encouraging its stakeholders to give their views on the feasibility and appropriateness of this.
Ofcom is aiming to start the auction in the first quarter of 2012, subject to this consultation.
DTG Staff | 22.03.2011