Plans to trade spectrum for mobile services

Mobile phone operators in the UK will be allowed to trade radio spectrum, under plans revealed by UK regulator Ofcom.

The proposals cover spectrum at 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2.1GHz, and will allow operators with a need for spectrum to make offers to those operators already holding it. Under the proposals, Ofcom will assess the impact of any trade before granting consent to ensure healthy competition.

“We might start to see more consolidation of spectrum holding,” says Rhys Hurd, communications manager for Ofcom. “Some companies hold fairly disparate holdings in any given band, and in terms of spectrum efficiency it’s a lot better if they have continuous blocks of spectrum, particularly for 3G and 4G. It makes the technology a lot more efficient.”

The auction of the 2.6GHz band, scheduled for the first half of 2012 is likely to trigger the start of trading. There may be a flurry of activity before that date, however, when Everything Everywhere divests 2x15 of its 1800MHz spectrum as part of the agreement that was made with the EC during the merger of T-Mobile and Orange.

The consultation on Ofcom’s proposals closes on March 17 2011. The UK is required to liberalise its spectrum for 3G under the GSM Directive.

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