Radio frequencies previously reserved for the military will be freed up for use by 4G operators

Ex-military radio spectrum up for grabs

Radio frequencies previously reserved for the military will be freed up for use by 4G operators

Radio frequencies formerly owned by the MoD are now up for grabs as Ofcom calls for expressions of interest from 4G operators.

The communications regulator said it was taking the "significant" step to ensure that the UK continued to meet the growing demands being placed on its wireless infrastructure.

The MoD announced last month it would release 190 MHz of radio spectrum for Ofcom to award for new commercial uses, the equivalent to around three-quarters of the 4G spectrum auctioned to operators in February.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: "This is a very significant next step forward in Ofcom's long-term strategy for managing spectrum. Over the next decade we will see a revolution in the way that people connect to the Internet, driven by the ability to wirelessly access the Internet at super-fast speeds.

"4G is likely to open up a new wave of wireless innovation that will deliver considerable benefits to society and the UK's digital economy. However, this development will also place huge demands on the UK's wireless infrastructure.

"Releasing MoD spectrum onto the commercial marketplace is an important step in helping to meet this extraordinary demand."

In the UK, half of all adults now own a smartphone and one in four households has a tablet computer, fuelling a surge in demand for more data capacity.

But by 2020, up to 50 billion other things including cars, crops, coffee machines and cardiac monitors are also likely to be connected to the Internet, using tiny slivers of spectrum to get online, Ofcom said.

The frequencies to be released by Ofcom are all below 5GHz, forming part of the radio spectrum regarded as particularly attractive in supporting a wide range of potential consumer applications.

Ofcom said its initial view was that the bands were likely to be attractive to companies wishing to deliver 4G wireless broadband services because of current trends in how spectrum bands were being "harmonised" across European countries.

It said releasing these frequencies for 4G mobile broadband could potentially lead to improved 4G competition and capacity in the UK, but the regulator said it was interested in alternative views about how the spectrum could be used.

Ofcom expects the spectrum to be awarded in the financial year 2015/16.

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