700 MHz band to meet mobile broadband demand?Ofcom consult on spectrum changes

02 April 2012

Ofcom and 700MHz spectrum

Ofcom proposes using 700MHz spectrum to meet mobile broadband data demand

Ofcom has opened a consultation on how to best secure long term benefits from limited spectrum resources. It includes a proposal to open up mobile broadband spectrum in the 700MHz band to meet the growth in demand for mobile data.

It lays out long-term priorities for UHF band IV and V spectrum which are - to sustain the delivery of digital terrestrial television, and enable the release of mobile broadband spectrum in the 700MHz band to meet the growth in demand for mobile data, such as high-speed 4G LTE. 

A word of warning though, Ofcom has put the potential date for any change of use for 700MHz at 2018 at the earliest, due to the need to gain international agreement. It will also depend on the position adopted by other European countries. 

700MHz spectrum

According to Ofcom, 700MHz is lower frequency spectrum which could be particularly valuable. Its characteristics mean it can provide a better quality of service in difficult to reach indoor or outdoor locations, and deliver savings in the number of new mobile sites that will need to be built. 

You may have heard 700MHz spectrum mentioned recently as it's one of the frequency bands that the latest iPad works on in the US and Canada (the other is 2100Mhz). In these countries it is already used to provide mobile broadband LTE services and it's planned to be used in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. 

What is spectrum and why is it important?

Spectrum enables the delivery of many services from digital television, to emergency services, to mobile broadband. However the limited spectrum available is coming under pressure from certain areas, most obviously the rapidly increasing demand for mobile broadband capacity. 

Ofcom has acknowledged the issue and the need for a 'long term strategic approach' to make sure future supply of spectrum meets the demand for services which can deliver benefits to consumers. It points out that this is particularly important for UHF band IV and V spectrum. Firstly because this is in scarce supply, and secondly is in high demand from different services. 

The UHF band IV and V spectrum was used for analogue TV which is now being freed up by the digital switchover. This means the spectrum is now available for other uses and is the subject of the Ofcom consultation above. 

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