Ofcom puts 700MHz on the table for mobile broadband

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, has proposed that 700MHz spectrum could be refarmed from digital TV and used for mobile broadband instead, in order to cope with the expected demand for data. However, in its view, this is unlikely to happen until 2018, due to the need to establish European wide agreement.

The regulator made the suggestions in a newly released consultation document on the long term strategy for spectrum use. The document highlights the need to come up with strategies to solve the expected data crunch, with estimates for the increase demand for data between now and 2030 ranging from 80-fold to 300-fold.

The report suggests that there are several ways that operators can deal with this; such as moving to more efficient technologies such as LTE, offloading to wifi, employing femtocells and simply building more mobile basestations.

It also suggests the use of more low frequency spectrum, and suggests that using 700MHz would be the most attractive option as it is already being used in the US for LTE and is being planned for in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

The spectrum is currently occupied in the UK by digital TV transmissions, but Ofcom says that spectrum could be freed up by the implementation of more efficient compression techniques and by moving TV broadcasts to 600MHz.

The closing date for responses to the consultation in 7 June 2012.

The move to 700MHz for LTE in the UK will come too late for buyers of the new iPad, many of whom were disappointed to learn that their new device will not work on planned LTE networks, which will be based on 800, 1800 and 2600MHz spectrum.

The issue came to a head in Australia, after Apple was forced to offer refunds to disgruntled consumers following complaints to the ASA, the country’s advertising watchdog.

Ofcom has recently approved the use of refarmed 1800MHz spectrum by Orange, who plans to use it to launch LTE commercially in the UK by the end of 2012, much to the indignation of its rivals.

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