Ofcom allows mobile network spectrum trading

mobile network

Ofcom has given mobile operators the green light to buy and sell radio spectrum in a move designed to beef up network capacity to accommodate rising smartphone usage.

There is currently more than 12 million smartphones in use in the UK, placing a great deal of stress on current spectrum allocations. To avoid demand outstripping supply, and provide better services for consumers, Ofcom will allow operators to trade spectrum based on their own network needs and those of their users.

The new regulations will cover the spectrum at 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz, Ofcom claims this will allow networks with a "greater need for spectrum" to make offers to buy it from other networks which need less.

"Over the past two decades, mobile phone companies in the UK have acquired licences for blocks of spectrum. In general, the more spectrum an operator holds, the more telephone conversations and internet traffic it can carry over its network," Ofcom said in a statement.

"Not all operators hold the same amount of spectrum, and the level of demand for mobile services also differs from area to area."

The change comes after the Government directed Ofcom to make mobile spectrum licences tradable at the end of last year. Ofcom says the regulations are now in place and trading in spectrum can begin. It is hoped the change will create a "more efficient use of spectrum."

"This is an important milestone in the modernisation of spectrum management in the UK. It comes in response to the fast pace of change and innovation taking place in the mobile communications sector, which is placing increased demands on spectrum," said Ofcom's chief executive, Ed Richards back in February when the consultation on spectrum trading was launched.

"One important way of meeting this demand is making the acquisition of spectrum as flexible as possible."

Ofcom will handle administration of trading activity, will publish information about trades online and issue licences.