Ofcom aims to speed up refarming of 700MHz band for mobile services

UK telecoms regulator hopes to make the spectrum available by Q2 2020, 18 months earlier than initially planned

Ofcom aims to speed up refarming of 700MHz band for mobile services

UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom is seeking to clear the 700MHz band 18 months earlier than it initially planned, so it will now be available for mobile services by the second quarter of 2020.

In November 2014, when Ofcom decided to make spectrum in the 700MHz band available for mobile data, it indicated that it would be possible to make the band available by the end of 2021. However, its latest analysis suggests that benefits to citizens and consumers would be greater if it was available sooner.

The regulator has published a new document in which it sets out the proposals by which it would be able to bring forward the point at which this spectrum is nationally available for mobile data by up to 18 months earlier - to a target of no later than Q2 2020.

This would involve changing the frequencies used by some temporary DTT services, known as interim multiplexes, which operate in the 600MHz band (550-606MHz). The document also considers the future of part of the 700MHz band called the centre gap. It sets out proposals to make this spectrum available for mobile data.

Ofcom’s November 2014 Statement made a decision on use of the main part of the 700MHz, called the ‘paired spectrum’. However, it did not decide what the 25MHz in the middle of the band, the ‘centre gap’, should be used for.

It has considered a range of applications which could use the centre gap and has reached a provisional view that mobile data (specifically for mobile downlink use) is likely to be the use that maximises benefits to citizens and consumers.

Linked to this, Ofcom has also decided to allow the interim multiplexes to continue operating in this spectrum until at least 1 May 2020, or until mobile downlink services in this spectrum are deployed.

As a result of these decisions Ofcom said it is serving notice on PMSE (programme making and special events) users that operate in the 700MHz band that from 1 May 2020 they will no longer have access to spectrum in this band to deliver their services.

The full Ofcom document can be found here.

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