UK communications regulator Ofcom has set out detailed proposals for how it plans to release the valuable spectrum that will be freed up as a result of the switchover to digital television.

The spectrum, known as the ‘digital dividend’, resides in the UHF band and is currently used for the delivery of analogue TV channels.

Transmissions in the UHF 470MHz to 862MHz band are able to cover large geographical areas with relatively few transmitters and penetrate buildings well, suggesting that popular applications for the spectrum will be fast wireless broadband services, mobile TV, or more digital terrestrial television channels in either standard or high-definition.

Ofcom plans to make 128MHz of cleared spectrum available in two blocks: 550-630MHz and 806-854MHz, on a UK-wide basis and said it will hold an auction in 2009. The spectrum will be freed up for new uses in phases, as digital switchover proceeds between now and 2012.

The licences would be tradable and flexible to allow spectrum owners to determine the technology and services they provide and to change the use of the airwaves as new technologies and services emerge. Ofcom said it would not impose roll out obligations, access requirements or ‘use it or lose it’ conditions.