UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has published an update on plans to release spectrum that it says could be used to meet the growing demand for mobile broadband services, claiming that the decisions it has announced will help it “set the groundwork for the spectrum award, including how these frequencies will be licensed and the mechanics of the auction”, reports Telegeography.com on May 27, 2015.
The document itself sets out Ofcom’s decisions on a number of issues connected with the award of frequencies in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands, including: the auction design and process; the coexistence of new and existing uses of the frequencies to be awarded; and the license conditions to be attached to the spectrum. While no specific uses for this spectrum have yet been prescribed, the regulator notes that it is likely to interest the mobile industry, saying that both the aforementioned bands will be released for civil use and “could be suitable for providing very high data capacity”.
Meanwhile, Ofcom is also seeking stakeholder views on options for proceeding with the spectrum award in light of anticipated changes to the make-up of the British mobile market. In a press release, the watchdog noted that since its last consultation on the proposed spectrum sale, fixed line incumbent BT had announced plans to acquire EE, the country’s largest cellco by subscribers, while Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, owner of Three UK, had reached an agreement to buy O2 UK from Spain’s Telefonica. Ofcom notes that if the latter merger proceeds, then it would reduce the UK wholesale mobile market from four major operators to three.
Ultimately, Ofcom has said its objective is to award the frequencies in a way that “will allow consumers to enjoy greater access to high-capacity mobile Internet without undue delay”. To that end, would-be bidders for spectrum have been invited to comment on a proposed option under which the regulator would award most of the newly-available spectrum later this year, or early in 2016, with the remaining frequencies held back for award at a later date.