Feeds

Ofcom mulls what to do with 8MHz of prime spectrum

Free to a good home?

Security for virtualized datacentres

Ofcom is seeking opinions on what to do with 8MHz of prime spectrum, with everything from selling to the highest bidder to allowing unlicensed usage on the agenda.

The spectrum is in two blocks of 4MHz; one starting at 872MHz and the other at 917MHz. These are perilously close to the spectrum used by Vodafone and O2 for their GSM services, and capable of interfering with those networks if high-power use is permitted. This is what's tempting Ofcom down the unlicensed-but-restricted route though the regulator still needs convincing that such an approach yields the greatest value.

Ideally the regulator would like to sell off the blocks to the highest bidder in the normal way, but the fact that the buyer will have to negotiate with O2 and Vodafone to avoid interference reduces the value of the spectrum considerably, perhaps enough to make the spectrum more valuable if it's given away.

To understand this argument you have to understand how Ofcom thinks: the regulator doesn't use auctions to raise revenue, it genuinely believes that doing so incentivises the buyer into making maximum use of the spectrum, and making maximum use of the spectrum is what Ofcom is charged with doing.

In this instance there is an argument that no-one is going to roll out a national network dancing around the incumbents, especially as they start pushing 3G technology (and beyond) into their spectrum, so maximum use may be better achieved by setting some caps on transmission power and allowing free use.

Ofcom reckons that could mean short-range radios, and RFID tags, but wants to know if anyone thinks unmanned aircraft might usefully be deployed in the space, or remote meter reading, or anything else you can think of.

Another possibility is another wireless broadband provider, but they'd have to pay the existing operators to fit better filters (at an estimated cost of £5.4m, not including fitting), or run their network at very low power. The Ministry Of Defence owns some adjacent blocks, which may come up for auction during 2012: that would make the spectrum much more attractive for broadband but few companies will gamble on the MOD keeping to schedule.

Ofcom does lean in the direction of an auction (pdf) - noting that spectrum that is licensed can thereafter been thrown to the commons if the situation changes. But spectrum that is thrown open cannot easily be reclaimed. If you disagree, or feel the risk is worth taking, then Ofcom is open for comments until 3rd November. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.