Cross-industry tensions "could lead to spectrum crunch"

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The UK faces a spectrum crunch if it cannot resolve numerous threats including lack of supply, tensions between industries and the public and private sector, and an increasingly globalised market, the UK Spectrum Policy Forum has claimed.

The forum said in a new report that the failure to provide adequate spectrum to a range of industries, including telecoms, could cause a "significant" economic and social impact.

It highlighted tensions that need to be resolved in order to avoid a future capacity crunch. The first was a lack of spectrum to match supply. The second was the changing landscape of spectrum demand, with allocations of bandwidth switched or new sectors demanding fresh frequency.

Another issue was ensuring decision making in the UK was in line with international agreements, which would lead to economies of scale in equipment.

The forum said numerous industries suffered from tensions including those between the public and private sectors, those using licensed and companies accessing licence-exempt spectrum and those between public access and critical communication services.

UK regulator Ofcom has already postponed its forthcoming auction because of the continuing approval process for Three's takeover of O2.

The forum also hit out at the "immaturity" of regulating new kinds of spectrum access such as sharing. It also said the method of pricing needed to be looked at again.

David Meyer, Chairman of the UK Spectrum Policy Forum, said: “Spectrum is a national asset that is increasingly subject to international developments and which, if appropriately distributed and used, can yield substantial economic and social value for the UK.

“The findings of this report will help industry, Ofcom and Government maintain the UK’s leading place on spectrum in Europe and more widely. By promoting mutual understanding between sectors we can assist in forming polices which will maximise spectrum value for the UK.”

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: "Radio spectrum is increasingly important to business and will play a key role in the continued growth of the UK's economy. This report on the future of spectrum will help us work together to focus on the challenges in getting the best value for the UK from using spectrum."