Andrew Ferguson of comments on spectrum release

“The Ministry of Defence has previously looked at sharing arrangements for blocks of spectrum it is not using, but this auction is really a first of its kind. Coming so soon after the actual placing of deposits in the Ofcom 4G spectrum auction for 800MHz and 2600MHz bands will of course cause lots of eyebrows to be raised.

The news of 500MHz of spectrum (twice as much as the Ofcom 4G auction) suddenly becoming available could be seen as potentially reducing the likely bids in the Ofcom 4G auction and thus upset Government plans, which centre around raising some £3.5 billion from that auction. This should not be the case though as mobile operators should have been well aware that this extra spectrum was becoming available. The DCMS was making all the right noises back in 2011, with the process originally starting as part of a much wider spending review.

The key thing is exactly when the blocks will become available, and what devices can actually use the blocks. We know that 2310-2400 and 3410-3600MHz should become available on the market between 2013 and 2016, which have potential for 4G use, though ideally in terms of mobile broadband it is the spectrum below 1000MHz that is of most interest due to its longer range and better penetration into buildings. In this range though the block to be released is only 2 x 2MHz, which appears to be of interest to those wanting to use wireless connectivity as part of the smart grid roll-outs.

With wireless device manufacturers of mobile and fixed wireless devices keen to target a global market, the interest and amount of potential money that can be raised will depend greatly on how easily the various bands can be utilised by devices without the need for a UK specific model. The whitespace fixed wireless broadband trials are in a very good position to exploit extra spectrum even if it is only 8 to 20MHz of space, and the use of a small antenna on the outside of a property can help to boost reception/transmission. We are already seeing enterprising fixed wireless operators using WiMAX services to offer better speeds than traditional ADSL services in many parts of the UK.”

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