4G spectrum set aside for Olympics due to auction delay

Ofcom wants to reserve the 2.6GHz spectrum band, which is lined up to be a major conduit for 4G high-speed mobile broadband, for the 2012 London Olympics.

Ofcom wants to reserve the 2.6GHz spectrum band, which is lined up to be a major conduit for 4G high-speed mobile broadband, for the 2012 London Olympics.

The regulator launched a four-week consultation on Thursday that proposes reserving the band for wireless video cameras, which broadcasters will need to cover the Games. Part of the rationale for the move is the delay in auctioning off the 2.6GHz band, which means mobile operators are unlikely to roll out 4G services before 2012.

"Ofcom's spectrum plan for the London 2012 Games was published in October 2009," the regulator said in its consultation. "Our spectrum plan aimed to satisfy demand for spectrum for wireless cameras particularly since we had identified additional spectrum already widely in use for this application."

"Since then, experience at the Vancouver 2010 Games, further growth in the use of wireless cameras in sports coverage, plans for airborne television coverage and the emergence of 3-dimensional television makes it likely that the spectrum demand may be greater than we had predicted."

Ofcom noted that its original spectrum plan for the Olympics avoided the use of 2.6GHz despite its suitability for wireless cameras. "The band was not included in Ofcom's spectrum plan because of plans to make the band available for commercial use within the timescale of the London 2012 Games," it said.

"The government's plans for an award process have now been clarified, and the award of these frequencies is now expected at the end of 2011 [...] There appears little realistic prospect of using 2.6 GHz to deploy new mobile or broadband data services widely to UK citizens and consumers before the Games; and not reserving the band for the London 2012 Games, in the absence of any significant deployment of new mobile or broadband data services, could be a serious loss to the broadcasting coverage of the Games and to citizens and consumers in the UK and world-wide."

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