Ofcom has today announced plans for the largest ever single auction of additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK, equivalent to three quarters of the mobile spectrum in use today and 80% more than the 3G auction which took place in 2000.
This spectrum is essential to meet the UK’s rapid increase in mobile traffic, fuelled by the growth of smartphones and mobile broadband data services such as video streaming, email, messenger services, mapping services and social networking sites. All of these services depend on spectrum – the airwaves that carry information between customers’ mobile handsets and the internet.
The new spectrum will provide much needed capacity for the fourth generation (4G) of mobile technology, set to deliver significantly faster mobile broadband services – approaching today’s ADSL home broadband speeds.
The auction will be for two spectrum bands – 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. The lower frequency 800 MHz band is part of the digital dividend, which is being freed-up as the UK switches from analogue to digital TV. This spectrum is ideal for widespread mobile coverage. The 2.6 GHz band is at a higher frequency, and is ideal for delivering the capacity needed to deliver higher speeds. These two bands add up to 250 MHz of additional mobile spectrum.
The combination of low and high frequency spectrum available in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands creates the potential for next generation mobile broadband services to be widely available across the UK, while at the same time having the capacity to cope with significant demand, even in urban centres.
The UK mobile market is made up of four national wholesale operators, who sell mobile services to retailers, as well as directly to their own retail customers. Ofcom believes that competition at the national wholesale level is essential to future competition and maximising consumer and citizen benefits. In addition, there would be a significant risk to national wholesale competition if there were fewer than four national wholesale competitors with credible spectrum portfolios for providing higher quality data services.
By Miles J Thomas on 25th March, 2011