British telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched a consultation in which it has laid out proposals to make spectrum in the 700MHz band available for mobile data services ‘as soon as practicably possible’. As per the watchdog’s initial plans, it had indicated the band could be in use by the end of 2021, but Ofcom now says its analysis ‘suggests that benefits to citizens and consumers would be greater if it was available sooner’.
As such, the consultation document published late last week sets out proposals which Ofcom claims would enable it to bring forward the date at which this spectrum is nationally available for mobile data by up to 18 months – to a target of no later than the second quarter of 2020. According to the regulator, to achieve this would involve changing the frequencies used by some temporary DTT services, known as interim multiplexes, which operate in the 600MHz band (550-606MHz). The document also considers the future of the 25MHz in the middle of the 700MHz band – known as the ‘centre gap’. Previously, in a November 2014 statement regarding the band no decision was made regarding this portion of frequencies, but now Ofcom says that, having considered a range of applications which could use the centre gap, it has reached a provisional view that mobile data is ‘likely to be the use that maximises benefits to citizens and consumers’.
Ofcom’s consultation is due to close on 20 May 2016, with submissions from interested parties required by that date.