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Ofcom outlines radio spectrum plans

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Ofcom has published details of twelve radio spectrum bands that it expects to be available by the end of 2008. These can be used for a range of different applications including next generation mobile services and wireless broadband.

Some of the spectrum bands on offer could also be used for emergency services communications, digital radio and broadcasting.

Publishing its consultation document today, Ofcom said a priority is to make this spectrum available to the market as quickly as possible. That said, it wants to hand out the licences in an "orderly process [so that] optimal use is made of the spectrum".

"Another priority is to help spectrum users plan more effectively by setting out a clear set of proposals for future spectrum awards," added the regulator.

Today's Spectrum Framework Review: Implementation plan outlines Ofcom's intention to extend spectrum trading to the 2G and 3G bands in 2007. In particular, it proposes that there should be no restriction on the use of spectrum for mobile phone services other than 3G and is also keen to consider how and when liberalisation might be extended to existing 2G licences.

Under the terms of the 3G licences issued in 2000 - which cost the UK's mobile operators a whopping £22.5bn - each cellco has to provide network coverage to 80 per cent of the UK population by the end of 2007.

Despite pressure from the industry, Ofcom is not removing this obligation. The regulator "suggests that licence revocation is only likely to be proportionate in serious cases of non-compliance, not least given the serious consequences that this could have for existing customers of any licensee. The document also discusses other options for action short of revocation."

mmO2 commented: "mmO2 welcomes Ofcom's pragmatic position on the 3G roll-out obligation. mmO2 has consistently maintained that market demand should determine the pace and scope of network roll-out." The cellco is currently trialling its 3G service on the Isle of Man ahead of a summer launch.

The closing date for responses is 24 March 2005. ®

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