UK government opens consultation on spectrum broker recommendations

19 Oct 2009

The UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has announced the launch of a consultation on the findings and recommendations of the Independent Spectrum Broker (ISB) with a view to issuing directives to regulator Ofcom for the best use of the country’s radio spectrum. A number of proposals are to be considered, including plans to remove the licence durations for both 2G and 3G services; 2G licences will be clarified as being indefinite, although will be subject to revocation at five years’ notice for spectrum management reasons, while 3G licences will be made indefinite with an initial term that will expire on 31 December 2021. UMTS concessions will also be subject to revocation at five years’ notice but the BIS notes that no such notice would be given before 31 December 2016. In addition the government will also seek to make licences tradable in line with Ofcom’s market-based approach to spectrum management.

Spectrum caps are also expected to be introduced, with the BIS calling for a sub-1GHz cap of 2×17.5MHz; any operator bidding for spectrum above this amount must nominate an equal amount of sub-1GHz spectrum to relinquish into the auction should they win the sub-1GHz block for which they bid. It also calls for a total cap of 2×65MHz of FDD-equivalent spectrum, again noting that any operator bidding for bandwidth above this amount would be required to nominate frequencies to relinquish into the auction should they win the block for which they bid. Any operator with 2×25MHz or more of 2G spectrum will have to relinquish 2×5MHz of such frequencies should it win any further spectrum at auction, according to the proposals.

The BIS has also called on Ofcom to conduct a combined auction of the available 800MHz and 2.6GHz FDD bands as soon as possible, noting that such an auction should also contain any spectrum given up by operators as a result of the aforementioned spectrum cap proposals. The government has said if such an auction cannot be completed before the end of 2010 however, then it suggests that the 2.6GHz TDD spectrum should be auctioned separately as soon as possible.

The closing date for submissions to the consultation is 8 January 2010.

United Kingdom, Ofcom