Spectrum sharing must become even more integral to the UK communications market as demand for finite frequency bands increases.
Phillip Marnick, group policy director for Ofcom, said that about half of all public spectrum is shared at present, often without the various end users even realising. But this would have to increase and become a central tenet of UK spectrum management.
“Spectrum is used by everybody for everything and the challenge is to have more efficient use and get people interested in talking to everyone else to share this better,” he said.
“We have to balance the need of all spectrum users and recognise why each industry needs spectrum. Everyone needs to play together nicely.”
Marnick cited the launch of white space services as an example of efforts to improve this spectrum sharing by opening up spectrum holdings already in use by one sector - in this case TV services - for others to use.
“White space is looking to share applications in televisions bands, but more importantly it’s about developing new technologies for dynamic spectrum access from databases to share various bits of spectrum,” he said.
“We are looking at different tools and techniques to enable it to be shared because it’s not necessarily all used at the same time and same place.”
The report highlighted increasing uses of spectrum in areas ranging from mobile data to utilities and the Internet of Things as reasons why UK spectrum demands are evolving.
With regards to smart metering and the utility sector, the report said that this is a new example of a market where demand is being created that did not exist before, and that it would have to be supported by spectrum.
"In the medium to long term, the complexity and challenges of the smart grid for energy and water will only increase," the report said.
"Although more fibre will be deployed to help meet these challenges, this will not keep pace with the need for flexibility, mobility and rapidly deployable links, so the reliance on highly reliable and secure wireless connections will remain high."
Report author Simon Saunders, from Real Wireless, said that there is a concern that "pinch points" in spectrum holdings will emerge in the future as different sectors evolve at different speeds.
“The lack of alignment of the change taking place in different sectors has really staggered me,” he said at the launch event.
“A satellite is going to have to deliver services for a long period of time. A mobile phone is going to change in 18 months. But the base station has to yield a return over the long term. The aviation sector has a 60-year plan [for spectrum use]."
The report comes amid a busy week in the UK telecoms market after BT returned to the mobile fold with the launch of 4G services and Three confirmed that it will buy O2 for £10.25bn.
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