British telecoms regulator Ofcom has issued an update on its plans for spectrum in the 700MHz band, following a consultation carried out between March and May this year.
Having previously said in November 2014 that it intended to make 700MHz frequencies available for mobile data ‘as soon as practicably possible’, under the regulators initial plans it had indicated that the band would be made available by the end of 2021. However, following more recent analysis in which it concluded that benefits to consumers would be greater if this spectrum was available sooner, it has now set out two decisions in relation to the 700MHz clearance programme.
Firstly, Ofcom has revealed that it has taken a spectrum management decision to accelerate the programme by 18 months, with a view to releasing 700MHz spectrum in the second quarter of 2020, after DTT multiplex operators earlier this year proposed a plan that would speed the completion of clearance. Ofcom has said it estimates that accelerating completion of the programme by 18 months will increase the benefits of clearance by between GBP19 million and GBP60 million (USD23 million and USD73 million). Secondly, the regulator has decided that 20MHz of spectrum in the part of the 700MHz band known as the centre gap (733MHz-758MHz) should be allocated for use by mobile data, specifically mobile downlink. Linked to this, Ofcom has said it will allow the interim multiplexes to continue operating in this spectrum until at least 1 May 2020, or until mobile downlink services in this spectrum are deployed. As a result of these decisions, Ofcom has served notice on Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) users that operate in the 700MHz band that from 1 May 2020 they will no longer have access to spectrum in this band to deliver their services.