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    Ofcom proposes dropping restrictions on mobile spectrum


    12 spectrum bands to be available by 2008

    One of Ofcom’s proposals in a raft of topics in a consultation document dealing with spectrum allocation and trading is that, “in general, there should be no restriction on the ability to use spectrum for mobile phone services other than 3G.”

    This means that the regulator is proposing opening up several frequency bands for possible mobile telephony use, in accordance with its already stated intention to allow spectrum trading and liberalisation by 2007. The 12 bands and their possible uses are listed below, and Ofcom is calling for comments by 24 March 2005 on the proposals.

    A statement from the operator says, “Ofcom is today publishing details of twelve spectrum bands that it expects to be available for award by the end of 2008. Some of these
    bands are small allocations, or are likely to be only of limited use. Other bands, however, such as the 190 MHz of spectrum at 2500-2690 MHz, represent a significant amount of spectrum that could be used for a wide range of different applications such as next generation mobile applications or wireless broadband.” 

    It should be noted that the regulator is also proposing that a transitional period, lasting until 2007, be put in place before restrictions on using such spectrum to develop future 3G services are lifted.

    The regulator also said that it was “clarifying” the situation in the case 3G operators fail to meet their licence obligation of 80% population coverage by the end of 2007. It made clear that revocation of licences is only likely in the case of serious non-compliance (ie it won’t happen) but did list several less-severe options (ie payment).

    The bands discussed in the document include (all dates are indicative only):

    410-425 MHz, 870-921 MHz (part only) (available for award from 2005-2006) Available as a result of licensee insolvency, these bands could be used for radio services for businesses, additional capacity for the emergency services and programme making.

    1452-1492 MHz (‘L band’, available from 2006-2007)
    Possible uses include broadcast multimedia, new mobile applications and digital radio.

    1781.7-1785 MHz paired with 1876.7-1880 MHz (‘DECT guard bands’, available from 2005-2006). Previously reserved as a buffer between 2G mobile and cordless telephone (DECT) frequencies. Possible uses include innovative, low-power GSM

    1790-1798 MHz (available from 2007-2008)
    Presently used by the emergency services but additional capacity may become available by 2007-08. Possible uses include wireless broadband applications.

    2010-2025 MHz and 2290-2302 MHz (available from 2005-2006)
    2010-2025 MHz was reserved for IMT-2000 (3G) systems (but is unused) and the 2290-2302 MHz band was recently returned to Ofcom by the MoD. Could be used for next generation mobile applications or wireless broadband.

    2500-2690 MHz (available from 2006-2007)
    Presently used by programme makers for outside broadcasts. Possible future uses include next generation mobile applications and wireless broadband

    10 GHz, 28 GHz, 32 GHz, 40 GHz (available at varying times, from 2006-2008)
    Significant amounts of additional capacity for a range of new services. Includes licences not assigned in the previous auction of 28GHz frequencies.
    The document also discusses three other bands, on which further work is required before identifying a date for release:

    174 – 230 MHz (part only) (‘Band III’)
    Ofcom has proposed additional awards in its separate review of the radio industry, published on 16 December 2004.

    470-854 MHz (‘digital switchover spectrum’)
    Currently used for analogue television but new options for use will emerge with the transition to digital broadcasting. 112 MHz of spectrum could become available. Proposals dependent upon international negotiations at the Regional Radio Conference in 2006.

    3.6-4.2 GHz
    Presently used for high speed fixed links, satellite services, and fixed wireless access. Subject to further work on sharing issues, additional capacity may be available for further terrestrial applications.


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