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US startup launches online airwaves market

Secondhand spectrum swap

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Spectrum trading - the ability for licence holders to sell on, or sub let, their frequencies - has been broadly endorsed by both the FCC and Ofcom, so now a US company has done the obvious thing and set up a market for the buying and selling of radio frequencies.

SpecEx is launched today, with spectrum worth $250 million up for sale including everything from national two-way paging frequencies to point-to-point connections in specific locations. The site is being run by Spectrum Bridge Inc., which raised $2m in seed funding to put together the service to connect buyers with sellers.

$250 million is, of course, a drop in the ocean compared to the billions spent on spectrum, but it only represents what's on the market right now, and what Spectrum Bridge have managed to convince owners to hawk through the service.

They aren't the first to try either, as the Wall Street Journal reports. But previous efforts have failed to find enough buyers and sellers to sustain the market. This time around, spectrum use is less constricted, and with the FCC not planning any major sell-offs for a while yet, there's nowhere else for a prospective licensee to go.

The FCC will have to approve any exchange of spectrum, or even a sub-letting, but the service is a logical extension to the liberalisation of radio licensing, which has already seen some licensees buying spectrum with the avowed intention of reselling it at a profit.

Spectrum Bridge likes to draw similes with the property industry, which chimes with how our own Ofcom relates to spectrum, so they see SpecEx as an estate agent putting buyers in touch with sellers - though hopefully without the dodgy cologne and excessive use of superlatives.

Spectrum trading is inevitable, and there's clearly a need for a central repository, the only question is if SpecEx will be the company that makes a success of it, but the site is worth visiting if only to watch the mildly hypnotic display of available frequencies flashing by. ®

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