Ofcom has asked for industry input on its proposals for handing out new mobile spectrum that will most likely be used to boost 4G services as the demand for mobile services continues to soar.
The spectrum holdings, at 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz, were previously owned by the Ministry of Defence and handed over to Ofcom last year as they were not being used.
Both frequencies are suited to 4G services, and 2.3GHz has very similar characteristics to the 2.6GHz range that is already used in the UK for 4G services.
Furthermore, numerous high-end smartphones, such as the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy range, already use 2.3GHz in other nations for 4G.
Ofcom added that the 3.4GHz band may be valuable in providing other means for operators to handle the growing amount of data on their networks, either as "capacity itself or as backhaul for small cells in other bands".
The 3.4GHz band is already used by broadband firm Relish in London to provide mobile broadband services as an alternative to fixed offerings.
Ofcom has now proposed using an auction process to hand out chunks of these bands, with licences granted for 20 years, as part of a consultation document on the release of the spectrum, likely to take place in 2016.
“Ofcom’s objective is to award the frequencies in a way that will allow consumers to enjoy greater access to high-capacity mobile internet without undue delay,” the regulator said.
Ofcom intends to issue the majority of the spectrum via these auctions, although 60MHz will be held back. However, it welcomed stakeholder feedback on these plans.
Ofcom also said that it would not put coverage obligations in place for either of the spectrum bands as they are more suited for high capacity and speed, rather than widespread access.
Industry stakeholders are invited to provide their thoughts on the proposals by 26 June.
Ofcom also noted that the telecoms market is going through a period of intense change with the BT/EE and Three/O2 acquisitions, but that it is not in a position to comment on the impact, and will instead leave it to the competition authorities.
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