4G spectrum auctions confirmed

Auctions of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands will begin in the UK by the end of the year, broadcast regulator and spectrum licensing body Ofcom has announced.
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Auctions of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands will begin in the UK by the end of the year, broadcast regulator and spectrum licensing body Ofcom has announced. The frequencies are being made available through the switching off of analogue TV carriers and moving PMSE (programme makers and special events) users to other channels. Dates for the sale of the frequencies for next generation (4G) fast mobile broadband services had been put back several times but broadcasters, production companies and hire firms have already re-equipped for the move to channel 38 and interleaved spaces lower in the spectrum in preparation for the cut-off on 31 December. Ofcom's aim is to provide mobile broadband to at least 98 percent of the UK population, including rural areas. The chief executive of Ofcom, Ed Richards (pictured), comments, "The 4G auction has been designed to deliver the maximum possible benefit to consumers and citizens across the UK. As a direct result of the measures Ofcom is introducing, consumers will be able to surf the web, stream videos and download email attachments on their mobile device from almost every home in the UK." Following the Ofcom announcement the House of Lords Communications Committee recommended that TV signals should be carried exclusively over the internet, with frequencies currently carrying broadcast services used for faster mobile data services. Malcolm Johnson of the Institute of Professional Sound (IPS) comments that as the "lion's share" of PMSE users had already moved from channel 69 to channel 38, so the confirmation of the auction dates was merely a formality. Speaking about the Lords committee proposal he says a total switch off of TV frequencies in favour of broadband would only be practical when there was at least 98 percent internet availability across the UK. Johnson adds that a more worrying development is the European Commission proposing in March that there should be harmonisation of all wireless spectrum across Europe, which would include radio microphones, in-ear monitors and wireless cameras. A consultation paper has been published, with the aim of creating more availability and efficient use of frequencies through a harmonised system. This would ultimately require the agreement of the World Radio Conference, which could take some time, but Johnson says it is still causing concern. www.ofcom.org.uk


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