DCMS confirms completion of programme to clear 700MHz band for 5G

3 Sep 2020

A major programme to vacate the 700MHz band for 5G and rural mobile coverage has been completed, according the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). In a press release regarding the matter, the body said that Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman is expected to confirm the milestone completion of the four-year GBP350 million (USD467 million) infrastructure programme when speaking later today (3 September) at 5G World, as part of London Tech Week. Until now, the 700MHz spectrum band has been mainly used for digital terrestrial TV broadcast, as well as for professional radio microphones used in music studios, theatres and outdoor events. Following the clearance programme, however, it will be exclusively available for mobile use.

The development will enable mobile operators and other ‘innovative companies’ to use 5G to develop new high data usage technologies and services to boost sectors such as manufacturing, transport and healthcare. Further, it has suggested that the low frequency of the 700MHz spectrum band is ideal for carrying wireless signals into buildings and over long distances – including the countryside. As such, it said the spectrum band clearance will increase capacity in 4G networks, bringing greater mobile coverage and improved reliability to rural communities. Releasing the 700MHz airwaves is expected to increase the total amount of the radio spectrum available for mobile services in the UK by nearly 20%.

Around 1,000 workers from organisations including local telecoms regulator Ofcom, Arqiva, Digital UK, Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL) and the multiplex operators were said to have spent more than two million hours clearing the spectrum. Under the programme, changes were made to more than 1,200 television transmitter sites ‘in some of the farthest flung reaches and on top of some of the tallest structures in the country’. The last part of the infrastructure works is understood to have taken place in Kendal, Cumbria and on the Isle of Man on 19 August, where channels were switched to the new frequencies in the last of 57 ‘clearance events’.

Commenting on the matter, Philip Marnick, Spectrum Group Director at Ofcom, said: ‘This is a major milestone for improving mobile services across the UK … The airwaves will now be available to use immediately after our upcoming spectrum auction, bringing better mobile and innovative new services a significant step closer.’