UK regulator sets proposals for spectrum auction

13 January 2012 |


UK regulator Ofcom has set out a series of proposals for making 4G spectrum available in the country. Among the proposals are measures to extend 4G coverage to at least 98% of the UK population and revised plans to promote competition.

Alastair Davidson, director of mobile for UK telecoms infrastructure company, Arqiva, was pleased with the proposals, and felt that Ofcom could go even further:

"We're very encouraged by what Ofcom has said and welcome its intention to make sure that at least 98% of the UK population has access to a 4G network. This is a significant milestone.” He continued: "We'd encourage Ofcom to make sure the 98% coverage obligation is applied to all the operators who win 800MHz spectrum”.

Ofcom had made a previous coverage obligation proposal, in March, that 95% of the UK population would have to be covered by one of the 800MHz license holders. The increased obligation of 98% is one of two options that the regulator is considering.

The second option is to mandate coverage in areas where it is lacking, known as “not spot” areas. This would be supported by a £150 million investment, announced by the UK government last year, to boost reception in rural areas.

The regulator also proposed safeguards both on spectrum caps and frequency holdings in total and was considering the reservation of spectrum in the 2.6GHz band, to be used for mobile innovation technologies.

Ofcom CEO, Ed Richards, said: “This is a crucial step in preparing for the most significant spectrum release in the UK for many years. The proposals will influence the provision of services to consumers for the next decade and beyond.”

There is now a 10 week period for stakeholders to comment on the proposals before a final decision is made in the summer.

The UK spectrum auction is expected to take place in the final quarter of 2012. Three quarters of the country’s spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6MHz frequencies will be auctioned off.

Western Europe is forecast to experience an explosion in demand for mobile data over the next five years with increases of up to 500%. The demand is being fuelled by increased smart phone usage and mobile broadband data services.