Ofcom spectrum sell-off to boost 4G speeds


Ofcom plans to sell off more spectrum used by the Ministry of Defence in a bid to boost the amount of bandwidth available for 4G networks.

The auction could take place as early as next year, with the regulator expected to invite potential bidders to comment on proposals to auction spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands.

Ofcom said no specific use for the spectrum has been assigned, but added the bands are of interest to the mobile industry, which relies on spectrum to offer mobile internet services to consumers.

It said many existing mobile handsets from major manufacturers, including the Apple iPhone 5 and 6, HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy, are already compatible with the 2.3 GHz spectrum in other markets. Currently 4G networks in the UK use the 800MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies.

The 2.3GHZ band is used for 4G mobile broadband networks in 10 countries outside Europe, including China, India and Australia. While the 3.4GHz band is currently used for 4G wireless broadband in six countries including the UK, Canada and Spain.

Ofcom said it intends to auction a total of 190 MHz of spectrum in the two bands, which is equivalent to around three quarters of the airwaves released by Ofcom through the 4G auctions in 2013.

The move is being made as part of a government initiative to free up public sector spectrum for civil uses.

It said the auction would be "fair and transparent" and would allow the spectrum to be awarded to those who can put it to the most efficient use and in the best interests of consumers. Ofcom said it would auction the spectrum in 38 lots of 5MHz, and bidders can request a minimum bid of four lots per band.

"Today marks an important step in ensuring that the UK has sufficient spectrum to support our wireless economy," says Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Group Director.

"It comes in response to the fast pace of change and innovation taking place in the communications sector, which is placing increased demands on how spectrum is used by all industries. One important way of meeting this demand is making new spectrum available and its use as flexible as possible."

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.