MoD to sell off radio spectrum


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to auction off some of its radio spectrum by 2014 for services including 4G.

The spectrum is currently being used by transport regulators and emergency services as well as the armed forces, but the MoD believes that it has enough spare capacity to make the auction viable.

The part of the spectrum up for grabs is a band of 200MHz under 15GHz. This is regarded as the most useful and thus valuable part of the spectrum as a wide range of voice and data applications can make use of it.

The auction, which could raise as much as 1 billion, will begin at the start of 2014 and is likely to be completed by the middle of that year.

The MoD has three quarters of all publicly held spectrum and a third of that under 15GHz. The MoD made some of its spectrum available during the 2012 Olympic Games in London to help the games cope with overwhelming demand.

The Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Philip Dunne, said he welcomed efforts to free-up "much-needed" spectrum.

"We hope that the sale will help drive the roll-out of new generation networks and universal access to broadband, both of which are vital to the UK's prosperity," he added.

Any money generated from the auction will be transferred to the Treasury rather than going back into MoD coffers.

News of the MoD auction follows the start of 4G auctions by telecoms watchdog Ofcom. The sale of that spectrum could raise as much as 3.5 billion. Ofcom has put a reserve price of 1.3 billion on the sale.

Andrew Ferguson, editor of broadband information site, said that the additional spectrum going on sale now could hamper efforts by Ofcom to sell off 4G spectrum.

He said that the spectrum suddenly becoming available could be seen as "potentially reducing the likely bids in the Ofcom 4G auction and thus upset Government plans, which centre on raising some 3.5 billion from that auction."

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.