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Ofcom to Free 25MHz of the 700MHz Band for UK Mobile Broadband

Friday, March 11th, 2016 (11:28 am) - Score 2,310

The telecoms regulator has today launched a new consultation on their plan to re-purpose 25MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band, which is currently used by Digital Terrestrial TV services, and make it available for use by Mobile Broadband (4G and possibly 5G) in time for Q2 2020.

Ofcom first began this process all the way back in 2014 (here) and their initial plans indicated that it would be possible to make the band available for mobile data services by the end of 2021, thus today’s proposal represents a small improvement on that time-scale. Meanwhile affected DTTV services would be shifted into the 600MHz band (a simple retune would work for most people, but some may potentially need to upgrade or tweak their kit).

dttv_frequency_bands

The advantage of using 700MHz, much like the 800MHz band that has already been freed up for mobile operators, is that it operates at a lower frequency and this means that it can cover a wider area (better coverage for less cost), while also penetrating more effectively through walls for indoor coverage.

On the flip side it might not carry as much data, although the latest 4G (LTE-Advanced) and future 5G technologies can get better performance out of it via solutions like Carrier Aggregation (i.e. harnessing more than one band at a time to deliver more data) and that could make for a reasonably fast rural broadband connection.

Ofcom’s Statement

In November 2014 we decided to make valuable spectrum in the 700MHz band available for mobile data as soon as practicably possible. Initial plans indicated that it would be possible to make the band available by the end of 2021. However, our analysis suggests that benefits to citizens and consumers would be greater if it was available sooner.

In this document we set out proposals which would enable us to bring forward the point at which this spectrum is nationally available for mobile data by up to 18 months – to a target of no later than Q2 2020. This would involve changing the frequencies used by some temporary DTT services, known as interim multiplexes, which operate in the 600MHz band (550-606MHz).

This document also considers the future of part of the 700MHz band called the centre gap. It sets out proposals to make this spectrum available for mobile data.

Our November 2014 Statement made a decision on use of the main part of the 700MHz, called the ‘paired spectrum’. However, it did not decide what the 25MHz in the middle of the band, the ‘centre gap’, should be used for. We have considered a range of applications which could use the centre gap and reached a provisional view that mobile data is likely to be the use that maximises benefits to citizens and consumers.

It’s worth adding that the Government has also committed up to £600m to support a change of use for the 700MHz band, which will cover the infrastructure costs of clearing the spectrum frequency, including support to consumers where appropriate, and retuning broadcast transmitters to enable broadcasters to move into a lower frequency (600MHz).

The new consultation closes on 20th May 2016 and after that Ofcom intends to publish a statement in Q3 2016, which will set out their decision as to whether to proceed with these proposals (we are certain they will proceed).

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Matt says:

    Err I’m confused where you getting the 25MHz from. The Consultation says there will be 30MHz Downlink and 30MHz Uplink freed. With a 25MHz Centre Gap.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      The first consultation handled part of that and this one focuses upon the 25MHz centre gap, as per Ofcom’s quote above.

    2. Matt says:

      Sorry I get you now because you are going forward with the idea of using the centre gap as SDL Spectrum sorry I apologise

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