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Ofcom unshackles radio spectrum

Trading to begin by end 2004

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Ofcom, the communications industry’s regulator, has paved the way for radio spectrum licence trading to begin in the UK by the end of the year.

The regulatory body published a 100-page document outlining the planned liberalisation of spectrum trading. The new rules will mean spectrum owners will be able to sell frequencies to third parties, and use spectrum for purposes outside the terms of their licence agreements.

Ofcom said in a statement that: “Rather like land, nobody makes more spectrum. However, each country can make more of what it has.”

It argued that the traditional approach to spectrum management (Government controlled) meant the space on the airwaves was not being used as efficiently as possible. It also lacks flexibility; making it difficult for spectrum owners to use their frequencies in new ways.

Intellect, the IT trade association, welcomed the report. In a statement, Intellect’s director of campaigns, Tom Wills-Sandford, said: “Only by ensuring the maximum effective and imaginative use of the available radio spectrum will Ofcom pave the way for a greatly improved communications infrastructure, resulting in higher productivity levels and socio/economic success for the UK within the knowledge driven economy."

This first stage of liberalisation applies to eight licence classes: analogue public-access mobile radio, national paging, data networks, national and regional private business radio, common base stations, fixed wireless access, scanning telemetry and fixed terrestrial links.

Mobile operators will have to wait for trading in 2G and 3G spectrum to begin. Ofcom has pencilled in deregulation of this licence class for 2007, but stressed that nothing has been finalised. ®

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