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Ofcom hands out free radio spectrum

Wireless camera bonanza

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15MHz of abandoned radio spectrum will be given away by Ofcom, despite being right beside the 3G frequencies.

The same slice of spectrum pulled in more more than £3m in a recent auction in Germany, but in the UK looks set to be handed over to wireless camera operators - for the time being at least.

The band concerned stretches from 2010-2025MHz and was supposed to be auctioned off with 2.6GHz auctions back in 2008. Those auctions hit a quagmire of delaying legal actions during which the Government published its Digital Britain document.

Digital Britain completely ignored the 2010MHz band, and as it forms official guidance to Ofcom, the regulator was obliged to pull 2010MHz out of the auction plans.

Thanks to that, and a general decline in interest, Ofcom reckons no one wants the band so has published a consultation to confirm that (pdf). That's in sharp contrast to Germany, where the band stayed in the mega-auction which is currently running with bidding already above €3.9m.

Germany's auction puts 2.6GHz on the block, along with the 800MHz band released by switching off analogue TV (the "digital dividend), and the 15MHz at 2010MHz and some other paired spectrum. There's still a week or two of bidding, but right now Telefonica O2 is looking to grab the 15MHz block at 2010MHz for €3,905,000.

€3.9m is small beer compared to the hundreds of millions of Euros that the German networks are paying for paired spectrum - overall the auction stands at just over €3bn - but would seem to demonstrate some value to the band.

Ofcom reckons not, pointing out that mobile TV never really happened and the band isn't wide enough for the kind of paired spectrum normally desired by network operators. So the regulator has proposed that the spectrum be handed over to wireless camera operators on a six-month-rolling permission until something more interesting turns up.

The band above is already used for connecting up cameras covering sports events and the like, and Ofcom reckons releasing 2010MHz will allow an additional couple of cameras to link up. That's opposed to opening up the band to everyone (which is too hard to rescind later), or charging a licence to the camera users - though the regulator is prepared to hear arguments until 10 May. ®

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