700 MHz: the UK’s worst kept secret is finally out

Ofcom intends to reallocate the 700 MHz band for mobile broadband.
| PolicyTracker

According to a consultation document issued this morning, allocating the band for mobile broadband would generate a quantifiable net gain to the UK economy of between £320m and £830m. The lion’s share of the cost would be in adjusting the UK’s heavily used, and politically important, DTT network, while the largest benefit would derive from MNOs being able to accommodate projected mobile data growth more efficiently.

To generate as much value as possible, Ofcom says it wants to assign this spectrum as soon as possible, perhaps in 2016.

The announcement, although undoubtedly important, will come as little surprise to most UK spectrum users. Around this time last year we reported that “the only thing missing is that the government hasn’t signed on the dotted line”. 

Since then, little has changed. In October we reported that the country’s biggest broadcaster, the BBC, was focussing its lobbying tactics on who will pay for the transition, which incidentally is something left open in this consultation; and in December, the 700 MHz band appeared at the top of Ofcom’s priority bands for consideration for mobile broadband. (Interestingly, Ofcom’s December document predict a 71 times increase in mobile data demand by 2030 while today this prediction has become “over 45” times). 

In the last week alone, we have reported that the minister responsible for spectrum, Ed Vaizey, was remarkably coy on the subject at a recent conference for broadcasters, and that the UK advocated harmonised implementation of SDL in the band’s duplex gap.

Today’s consultation issued assurances of Ofcom’s ongoing commitment for DTT, White Space users and PMSE. We look forward to hearing what these spectrum users, as well as the mobile broadband community, have to say about Ofcom’s plans for the band.

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