Plans for releasing large amounts of publicly-held spectrum have been revealed today by Communications minister Ed Vaizey.
The Government has published a report called ‘Enabling UK Growth – Releasing public spectrum’, setting out how it intends to release the spectrum by 2020.
The public sector currently holds around half of the most useful spectrum. The Government had committed to releasing 500MHz over the next 10 years in the Comprehensive Spending Review.
The document reveals that the Ministry of Defence has already identified two bands (2310-2390 MHz and 3400-3600 MHz) from which it expects to release 160 MHz of spectrum.
Many bands are covered by international agreements, so existing equipment may have to be retuned or replaced. Changes in use can cause interference, which would also have to be resolved.
Once a band is ready to be released it could be sold, leased or allocated for licence-exempt uses, such as localised Wi-Fi, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), said.
Meanwhile, the Government will ensure that any future spectrum needs for public safety and national security are considered before any band is released.
The release of the 500MHz spectrum will be in addition to the spectrum that Ofcom intends to release, including the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands that the regulator intends to auction in 2012.
Vaizey said: ‘This is a long-term project to ensure industry is able to meet the growing demand for services that need spectrum.
‘The use of smartphones and mobile broadband is set to increase rapidly. Releasing more spectrum over the next decade will be essential if industry is to meet that growing demand.
‘We must ensure the public sector uses this valuable resource as efficiently as possible. If the public sector does not need it, then it should be released so businesses can use it to grow.’
A Three spokesman said: 'We welcome the Government's acknowledgement that further spectrum needs to be made available to support the explosion of mobile internet use.
'However, the bands that are being considered for early release are all high frequency, which is less effective in addressing crucial rural and in-building coverage issues than sub-1ghz spectrum.
'That is why the structure of next year's auction, with it's 800Mhz spectrum is so critical to competition and consumers in the UK and to delivering the Government's broadband strategy.'