Ofcom has launched a consultation programme [PDF] over plans to sell off more of the UK's airwaves in order to “avert a capacity crunch on mobile broadband networks”.
The telecoms regulator said there was a growing tension between the growing demand for mobile data services and the limited availability of spectrum.
Under its proposals, frequencies currently used by digital terrestrial television services such as Freeview would have to make way for mobile broadband services.
Ofcom predicts that the demand for mobile data will experience an 80-fold increase between 2012 and 2030 – although it recognises this is a conservative estimate. The demand could even rise by a factor of 300.
To meet that demand, Ofcom has proposed that the spectrum in the 700MHz region, could be released for mobile broadband.
“The 700 MHz band, which is currently used to deliver DTT and other services on an interleaved basis, represents the most attractive option for providing additional lower frequency spectrum,” Ofcom said.
This is because of the number of countries that use those frequencies for LTE services, it added.
Ofcom suggested that the forthcoming digital switchover for television services, combined with greater efficiencies in transmitting signals, would make it possible to use the 700MHz spectrum for mobile broadband.
Meanwhile, the switchover would release spectrum in the 600MHz range, which could subsequently be used for digital TV and whitespace broadband services.
The proposals are unlikely to come into force in the immediate future, as Ofcom recognised such radical changes take time to introduce.
The consultation process closes on 7 June.
Nevertheless, pressure has been mounting on Ofcom to do more to address the need for mobile broadband services.
Its plans to allow Everything Everywhere to refarm parts of its licensed spectrum for 4g services have been attacked by rival operators.
Meanwhile, the UK is lagging behind other countries in 4G deployments, with the main auction for licences still some months away.
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