UK: Ofcom plans 700-MHz spectrum for mobile, "possibly 5G"

WorldWide Tech & Science. Francisco De Jesùs.

UK: Ofcom plans 700-MHz spectrum for mobile, "possibly 5G"

Ofcom is working on plans to make 700-MHz spectrum available to mobile operators in order to meet growing demand for mobile data and to support future mobile services, which it described as "possibly 5G".

Late last week the U.K. regulator published a plan that will see the 700-MHz frequency band currently being used for digital terrestrial TV (DTT) services released for mobile. The move will not require another complex digital switchover, akin to the one that took place in the U.K. recently as analogue TV signals were switched off, Ofcom was keen to point out; most customers will simply be able to retune their existing equipment.
In addition, it noted that the spectrum will not be available until 2018 at the earliest, since the changes are predicated on new international agreements that will ensure harmonisation. 

The 700-MHz band is already used for mobile broadband services in the U.S. and in Asia and will be allocated for mobile use on a global basis after the 2015 World Radio Conference.

"Within the coming months we will hold the U.K.'s largest-ever auction of mobile spectrum for 4G. However, that may not be enough to meet consumers' future data demands, which is why we are already making significant efforts to prepare to go beyond 4G," said Ofcom CEO Ed Richards, in a statement.
"Our plans are designed to avoid a 'capacity crunch', ensuring that the U.K.'s mobile infrastructure can continue to support the inescapable growth in consumer demand and economic growth more generally," he added.

Indeed, new statistics released by Ofcom show that consumer demand for data is growing, both using fixed-line and mobile connections.

In its latest Communications Infrastructure Report the U.K. regulator revealed that mobile data volumes in the U.K. have more than doubled since last year's report to an average of 0.24 GB per active SIM. And the total amount of data downloaded and uploaded on mobile networks in 2102 grew by 119% to 19.7 million GB in a month (the figures refer to June 2012 and March 2011).

On the fixed side, broadband connections are now available to virtually all U.K. premises, with a take-up rate of 71%. 10% of U.K. connections are at speeds of lower than 2 Mbps, down from 14% a year ago.

On average, U.K. consumers use 23 GB of fixed broadband data per month, up from 17 GB a year ago. And data usage increases with connection speed. Specifically, this latest report showed that data usage rises consistently along with speed until the connection reaches 8 Mbps. After that level, usage remains flat until connection speeds start to get up to near what Ofcom would refer to as super-fast broadband (SFBB).

For the purposes of this report, the regulator defined SFBB as 30 Mbps or above services, having previously drawn the line at 24 Mbps, to fit in with the European Commission's definition. However, since a very small proportion of customers have VDSL services between 24 Mbps and 30 Mbps, the change does not skew the figures by a significant amount. Just over 10% of total connections are SFBB, Ofcom said.


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