Ofcom to borrow spectrum from MoD for London Olympics

UK regulator Ofcom has outlined plans to temporarily use spectrum from the public sector to cope with increased demand for airwaves during the London 2012 Olympics.

The authority said that it will borrow spectrum on a short-term basis from the Ministry of Defence and other public sector bodies, make unused frequencies available, such as the spectrum that will shortly be auctioned by Ofcom, but is currently not being used, and will use spectrum made available by the country’s digital television switchover, as well as spectrum that is available without the need for a licence.

The body anticipates an increase in demand for bandwidth, caused by increased use of wireless cameras to achieve more dramatic and close-up action shots, more wireless microphones to add flexibility in capturing the sounds of the Games, wireless location, timing and scoring technology to give more detailed and immediate information about the event as it happens and wireless communications used by team members, sports officials, organisers and support staff.

In addition, sports commentaries will be distributed wirelessly to the venue audience for the benefit of hearing and visually impaired spectators and the use of wireless communications by security and emergency staff will be use to keep everyone at the event safe.

The decision to borrow spectrum from public bodies and use temporarily available airwaves was arrived at because spectrum within London is already being used at full capacity for many applications that will be used at the London 2012 Games, Ofcom said.

“In preparation for the increased demand for spectrum during the Games, Ofcom has been running a series of test events during 2011 and 2012. These have taken place at high profile events such as the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey, the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone and the Sail for Gold event at Weymouth,” the body said in a statement. Ofcom will also be responsible for managing the airwaves during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which will take place in June this year.

Ofcom has also built a state-of-the-art spectrum assignment system that will manage access to spectrum, keeping it free for those who need it and free from interference, in order to ensure spectrum is efficiently used, carefully allocated and to ensure that interference is minimised. The regulator will also be deploying an especially large team of radio engineers to track down and deal with any cases of interference that do occur.

“The UK’s airwaves are already among the most intensively used in the world. The London 2012 Games will significantly increase demand,” said Ofcom’s chief operating officer, Jill Ainscough.

“Ready and prepared for this challenge, Ofcom recognises that there is no room for complacency. We are working behind the scenes to make this capacity available, to ensure that this demand is met.”

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