[ofcom] 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 smart phones, used by people to access the internet. This is placing big 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.
More efficient use of spectrum
Over the past two decades, mobile phone companies in the UK have acquired licences for blocks of spectrum. In general, the more spectrum an operator holds, the more telephone conversations and internet traffic it can carry over its network. Not all operators hold the same amount of spectrum, and the level of demand for mobile services also differs from area to area.
By allowing operators to trade their spectrum, Ofcom believes that there will be greater opportunity to use it more efficiently. Ultimately, it is believed that this will bring benefits to citizens and consumers in terms of improved mobile services.
As part of a wider initiative to promote improvements in mobile services, the Government directed Ofcom to make mobile spectrum licences tradable in December 2010. Ofcom has now made the regulations necessary for this to happen.
Administering mobile spectrum trading
Ofcom will be responsible for the administration of spectrum trades – publishing the details of proposed trades online, confirming that they are acceptable, and then issuing revised licences to implement the trades.
Ensuring healthy competition
Under the regulations Ofcom must take into account whether competition is likely to be distorted before deciding whether or not to consent to a trade of mobile spectrum.