UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has unveiled plans to auction frequencies in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands in late-2015/early-2016, saying it viewed such a move as ‘a further step towards releasing valuable new spectrum that could be used to meet the growing demand for mobile broadband services’. With the watchdog noting that neither of the spectrum bands has a specific use prescribed for it, it has suggested both could interest mobile network operators as they could be suitable for providing ‘very high data capacity’.
As per Ofcom’s proposals it has confirmed it is planning to conduct an auction for a total of 190MHz of spectrum in the two aforementioned bands – equivalent to around three-quarters of the frequencies it released in its 2013 auction. With the spectrum to be offered currently being used by the Ministry of Defence, it will reportedly be made available as part of a wider Government initiative designed to free up public sector spectrum for civil uses. Saying the auction is designed to be fair and transparent, the regulator is looking to ensure that the spectrum will be awarded to ‘those who can put it to the most efficient use and in the best interests of consumers’. As such, Ofcom has said it will offer the spectrum in 38 lots of 5MHz, with bidders able to request a minimum bid of four lots per band. Meanwhile, in order to ensure competition a safeguard cap has been proposed which would limit operator’s mobile spectrum holdings to ‘37% of relevant spectrum’.
Commenting on the planned frequency sale, Philip Marnick, Ofcom Spectrum Group Director, was cited as saying: ‘Today marks an important step in ensuring that the UK has sufficient spectrum to support our wireless economy. It comes in response to the fast pace of change and innovation taking place in the communications sector, which is placing increased demands on how spectrum is used by all industries. One important way of meeting this demand is making new spectrum available and its use as flexible as possible.’
A consultation on the plans is now seeking comments from interested parties, which can make submissions until the 23 January 2015 deadline.