The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has launched a consultation that could pave the way for companies to buy and sell wireless bandwidth - but experts warn it will be a complicated process.
Spectrum trading will enable businesses to gain access to spectrum by buying or leasing it from others instead of applying for a licence from the Radiocommunications Agency (RA) or its successor, Ofcom.
It could enable operators to bring out new services more efficiently by cutting out the government, which can add a year to the process.
The DTI hopes the new proposal will boost the efficient use of spectrum while increasing competition. The consultation proposes a light-touch role for Ofcom, while making sure interference is reduced.
"The way the consultation is worded the government realises that the trick is in the implementation," said Nicholas Blades, principle consultant at analysts Schema.
"It is a very complicated area and the real issue will be in the coordination between different operators once they have acquired the spectrum."
Blades said the trading process should lead to better administration of spectrum as the market, rather than the government, will deal with who owns what.
"There is a legal process that has to be gone through and the spectrum can sit within the government's pot for a year or so before re-issue. If there is a market mechanism then that will be much more efficient," he said.
Another DTI consultation deals - through Recognised Spectrum Access (RSA) - with spectrum users who cannot be licensed. RSA is aimed at satellite systems that share spectrum with terrestrial services.
But there could be a backlash over this voluntary proposal. Companies without recognised spectrum access will not have the same protection from signal interference as companies that have subscribed to the scheme.
A spokesman for the DTI said the point of RSA was to allow companies outsidethe current regulatory scheme to have the same benefits as licence holders.
"You are paying for a particular service. It is to create a level playing field for people who use and share that part of the spectrum," said the spokesman.
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