Ofcom has announced plans to sell spectrum being released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in a bid to boost the UK’s 4G broadband capacity.
The communications regulator is seeking expressions of interest from companies that may be interested in acquiring the spectrum.
Some 190 MHz of radio spectrum is being released by the MoD, which is equivalent to approximately three-quarters of the 4G spectrum auctioned by Ofcom to operators in February 2013.
The winners of the auction – EE, Three, Vodafone, O2 and BT – collectively paid Ofcom £2.3 billion. However, this fell short of the government’s estimates by a massive £1.2 billion.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: “This is a very significant next step forward in Ofcom’s long-term strategy for managing spectrum. Over the next decade we will see a revolution in the way that people connect to the internet, driven by the ability to wirelessly access the internet at superfast speeds.
“4G is likely to open up a new wave of wireless innovation that will deliver considerable benefits to society and the UK’s digital economy.”
He added: “However this development will also place huge demands on the UK’s wireless infrastructure. Releasing MOD spectrum onto the commercial marketplace is an important step in helping to meet this extraordinary demand.”
The frequencies to be released are all below 5 GHz, which Ofcom believes would be attractive to companies wishing to deliver 4G wireless broadband services. At that those bandwidths the 4G connections wouldn’t be suitable for wide areas and are not very good at travelling through thick walls, but could be used for creating 4G hotspots.
Although Ofcom believes that 4G services are likely to be the most suitable for the available spectrum, it is also interested in alternative views for how it could be used.
The regulator expects the spectrum to be awarded in the financial year 2015-16.
Stakeholders with a potential interest in the spectrum should respond by 27 November, 2013.