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Ofcom Publish UK Radio Spectrum Management Strategy and Interactive Map

Wednesday, Apr 30th, 2014 (12:26 pm) - Score 933

The communications regulator has today set out its approach and priorities (e.g. future 5G mobile broadband) for managing and sharing (e.g. white space technology) the country’s radio spectrum up to the year 2025. As part of this, Ofcom has also published an Interactive Spectrum Map to show how different frequencies are used in the United Kingdom.

Most of the new strategy covers areas that our readers will already be familiar with, such as the plans to move Digital Terrestrial TV (DTTV) services out of the 700MHz band after 2018 and into 600MHz so that Mobile Broadband services can make use of it instead; this could include future superfast 5G mobile connectivity or existing 4G services.

Ofcoms Position on 5G Mobile Technology

One key development that is likely to affect spectrum demand for mobile data is the process of defining 5G technologies. Today, this is still at a very early stage and different visions, not necessarily compatible, exist for what 5G will stand for. But as prospects for 5G materialise there could be significant implications for spectrum demand. For example, whilst current mobile technologies rely on spectrum access below 6 GHz, in future 5G developments will mean that higher frequencies could be increasingly relevant to dense network infrastructures to provide very high capacity at high data rates in concentrated geographical locations, whilst lower frequency spectrum could continue to remain important to deliver widespread geographic coverage.

Similarly the new approach to spectrum sharing is necessary in order to meet Ofcom’s efforts to finalise White Space technology, which allows for the “unused” spectrum that exists between DTTV channels to be repurposed for use by wifi style Internet connections. A six month pilot of this system is currently being conducted (here) with various different potential applications.

Meanwhile various auctions and license changes are planned so that spectrum in the 2.3GHz, 2.7GHz, 3.4GHz and 3.6GHz bands (here) can be freed up for use by Mobile Broadband or similar wireless Internet connectivity solutions in the near future.

Ed Richards, Ofcom’s CEO, said:

As we move to an increasingly digital infrastructure across our economy it is wireless services which offer some of the most exciting opportunities for growth and innovation. Our spectrum management strategy is aimed at ensuring the regulatory approach helps the UK take as many of these opportunities as possible.

We are looking forward to working closely with people and organisations across the UK and beyond who share our ambitions for this crucial and growing area.”

Ofcom’s work is designed to complement the Government’s aim to double the contribution that spectrum services make to the UK economy to £100bn a year by 2025, which includes plans to release 500MHz of spectrum from the public sector (e.g. the Ministry of Defence’s 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands).

Spectrum is a limited resource and Ofcom’s approach is especially important when you consider the regulators prediction that by 2022 over 350 million additional devices in the UK (e.g. cars, crop sensors, washing machines, cats [kidding.. maybe] etc.) are likely be connected to the internet, with many using tiny slivers of spectrum.

But as we said earlier there’s nothing terribly new here, most of the plans are already known and this document merely serves to reinforce the preliminary ideas with a clear focus. However many unknowns still exist, such as precisely which technology will end up being used for 5G connections; it’s always hard to set policy for spectrum before you know for certain what will be going into the relevant bands.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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