Given the value to citizens and consumers of services that are enabled by spectrum, managing spectrum is a significant responsibility. To ensure maximum benefit is realised for UK consumers and citizens from spectrum use, we seek to provide efficient and effective access to spectrum, including incentives for its efficient use and to enable spectrum to move to higher value uses and users.
Our priorities for securing optimal use of spectrum for 2014/15 are set out in the Annual Plan.
Deliver spectrum and interference management for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games
Ofcom was responsible for organising a full spectrum plan for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014. This included licensing wireless users and managing any cases of interference.
Implement the change of use of the 700 MHz band
We have decided to make spectrum in the 700 MHz band available for mobile data. Our objective is to deliver this change as soon as possible. Early plans suggest that from a technical perspective it should be possible to release the 700 MHz band across the UK by the beginning of 2022 and potentially sooner. Given the substantial amount of effort that will be required to give effect to this decision, we have already begun implementation work. Our work on implementation will involve significant engagement with DTT providers, PMSE stakeholders, Government and representatives of TV viewers.
Prepare for the award of the 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands
Ofcom will be managing the release of 190 MHz of radio spectrum formerly used by the Ministry of Defence for military purposes. 40 MHz is located in the 2.3 GHz band and 150 MHz above 3.4 GHz; this spectrum is suitable for mobile broadband uses.
Enable the use of white space devices
White spaces is the name given to parts of spectrum that are unused in a particular location and time. White space technology is now being piloted in the UK and the pilot is among the first of its kind in Europe. The pilot will use the white spaces that exist between airwaves primarily used for digital terrestrial TV broadcasting (470 MHz to 790 MHz).
Investigate opportunities for further appropriate sharing of bands
Growing and competing demands for spectrum will require a mix of spectrum re-purposing and increased sharing. Technology improvements will go some way to meeting these increased demands by enabling more information to be carried over a given amount of spectrum.
However, we expect that the net effect of growing demands and changes in technology will still lead to increased pressures on access to spectrum in some specific frequency ranges.
Increasing shared access to spectrum amongst different uses becomes critical as technical and regulatory developments, such as dynamic shared access, enable more efficient re-use of spectrum where and when it is really needed. We are undertaking a broad systematic review of spectrum bands to identify potential sharing opportunities and highlight different categories of sharing based on different types of users in a given band.
Please see the Spectrum management strategy and the The future role of spectrum sharing for mobile and wireless data services - Licensed sharing, Wi-Fi, and dynamic spectrum access for further information.
Major Work Areas
In addition to our spectrum priorities, we also have a number of major spectrum work areas which we expect to work on in the forthcoming year. These are:
Continue to review the spectrum requirements of the programme making and special events (PMSE) sector
Understand the impact and role of receivers on efficient spectrum use
Support the spectrum requirements of the government’s Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme
Spectrum management strategy
Ofcom’s spectrum management strategy establishes the strategic approach and priorities for managing radio spectrum for the next decade.
The strategic approach relies on market mechanisms where possible and effective, and on regulatory action where necessary. It also places specific emphasis on: exploring opportunities for spectrum sharing; managing the co-existence of different services and promoting technology improvements that minimise interference; providing more information on how spectrum is used in the UK; and leading the debate on key international spectrum issues.
The priorities are: future mobile data demand, the future of the 700MHz band and free-to-view TV, Public Sector Spectrum Release, Programme Making and Special Events, Internet of Things applications and the Emergency Services.
Mobile data strategy
Our mobile data strategy is our long term strategy to address the increasing use of data by mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops. There are a number of ways to increase the capacity of mobile networks to deal with this growth, such as more efficient technology and greater use of small cells, but use of additional spectrum is likely to be part of the solution. Our mobile data strategy identifies spectrum bands for potential mobile use and prioritises our efforts on these. It describes what we plan to do to better understand the possibilities for each band, and, where appropriate, ensure there is an option for future mobile use.
In 2010 we published our Strategic Review of Spectrum Pricing, which set out the general principles and methodology that we use to set spectrum fees, known generically as 'spectrum pricing'. This review includes both AIP fees based on the opportunity cost of the spectrum used, and fees that reflect our costs.
Our 2014 statement, Spectrum Pricing: A framework for setting cost based fees, builds on the 2010 strategic review. The statement sets out our decision to adopt a Wireless Telegraphy Act fees framework and cost allocation methodology for licence classes where we apply cost based fees.
White spaces are the name given to parts of spectrum that are unused in a particular location and time. TV white spaces exist between airwaves primarily used for digital terrestrial TV broadcasting (470 MHz to 790 MHz).
Use of these white spaces will allow devices to transmit and receive wireless signals for applications such as broadband access for rural communities, Wi-Fi-like services or new machine-to-machine networks.
Compared with other forms of wireless technologies, such as regular Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the radio waves used by white space devices will be able to travel larger distances and easily through walls as they would use UHF frequencies.
Following completion of a Pilot, Ofcom will now implement commercial white space use aiming for the framework authorising commercial use of white space technology to be in place later in 2015. This will enable the use of new wireless applications to benefit consumers and businesses across the country.
The use of white space technology will be one way of meeting the growing demand for mobile data in the UK.
Latest Press Release
On 19 November 2014, Ofcom published a statement setting out our decision to make the 700 MHz band available for mobile data. The document follows a consultation that we published in May 2014.
The document presents our assessment of the costs and benefits of the decision to make the band available for mobile data in the light of responses to the consultation from stakeholders, and explains why we consider the benefits of our decision to substantially outweigh the costs.
Digital terrestrial television (DTT) and Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) services currently use the 700 MHz band as well as other frequencies. DTT provides UK viewers with high quality free-to-view television and PMSE underpins many important cultural and social activities.
The change will involve moving parts of these services from the 700 MHz band to other frequencies. However, we anticipate it will also result in significant benefits to citizens and consumers, such as improvements to mobile networks and cheaper mobile broadband services.
Our statement explains how we will make the 700 MHz band available for mobile data use without compromising the benefits provided by DTT or PMSE, and without causing significant disruption to viewers. Our objective is to make the band available for mobile by the start of 2022 and sooner if possible.
Ofcom is keen to bring industry stakeholders together to discuss spectrum matters. We hold an annual spectrum event and other project specific events as required.
Our most recent event was held on Thursday 12 March 2015 to explore the impact of new mobile and wireless broadband technologies, including those underpinning 5G, on spectrum regulation and management.
Please go to the spectrum event webpage for more information on current and past events.