Ofcom has today given the go-ahead for mobile phone operators to trade the rights to the radio spectrum they hold, in a measure aimed at helping to increase mobile network capacity and deliver faster and more reliable mobile services for consumers.
There are 80 million mobiles in the UK and more than 12.8 million of these are smartphones, used by people to access the internet. This is placing increasingly high demands on mobile spectrum.
The new regulations, which cover spectrum at 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz, are aimed at giving operators added flexibility, which could help them to meet some of these demands. For example, it will allow operators with a greater need for spectrum to make offers for spectrum from those who need it less. It is hoped that this added flexibility will help operators to respond more efficiently to demand, Ofcom noted.
Ofcom commented in its Notice of Proposals to make 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz public wireless network licences tradable: “Mobile spectrum is relatively scarce. This, together with its nature as a key input for mobile services, makes spectrum a strategic asset in the mobile market. Concentration in mobile spectrum holdings could potentially lead to reductions in the intensity of competition to the detriment of consumers. This for example was part of the concerns which led the European Commission to accept commitments from Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom to divest some 1800 MHz spectrum when allowing the merger of Orange UK and T-Mobile UK.