Ofcom, the UK’s telecommunications watchdog, has revealed that it is planning to sell the radio spectrum through auctions, formerly used by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), and is inviting providers of mobile broadband to register their interest.
An auction for the spectrum needed for 4G mobile broadband (excluding the spectrum already being used by EE 4G phone services, as EE had a jump-start on all other networks in rolling out 4G to the UK) was previously held back in February 2013. The sale generated £2.4 billion in revenue and allowed other networks to get a slice of the lucrative 4G action.
However, Ofcom has now revealed plans to extend UK 4G coverage even further, by selling off a band of spectrum formerly intended for use by the MOD. The department is said to be releasing a total of 190MHz of spectrum, designating it for “new commercial uses”. To put this into perspective, this new spectrum is equivalent to roughly three-quarters of the spectrum included in the previous Ofcom 4G auction.
Ofcom is now calling for mobile operators to register their interest in bidding for the spectrum. 4G networks have already expanded considerably in the very short time they’ve been around, with more customers than ever buying 4G contract phones online with EE and other networks, but the regulator believes that demand for data will only increase.
By 2020, the regulator believes that around 50 billion devices, in addition to the smartphones and tablets we use every day, will be connected to mobile networks. These include everything from vehicles to coffee machines, and mobile network operators will need enough radio spectrum to be able to cope with the demand for fast mobile broadband.
Commenting on the plans for a new auction, Ofcom’s chief executive Ed Richards said:
“Releasing MOD spectrum onto the commercial marketplace is an important step in helping to meet this extraordinary demand”