The government has published suggestions on how it can achieve its commitment of releasing 500MHz of spectrum by 2020.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) document, Enabling UK Growth — Releasing public spectrum, came out on Thursday. It said the Ministry of Defence had identified two bands, 2310-2390MHz and 3400-3600MHz, from which a total of 160MHz of spectrum could safely be released. The DCMS also said it had identified three other bands — 2700-3100MHz, 3100-3400MHz and 4400-5000MHz — "which we think are priorities for further investigation".
"Depending on what this yields we have identified a further five bands above 1GHz and five bands below 1GHz that could, with further work, yield spectrum towards the 500MHz target," the DCMS said in its publication. The 500MHz target was announced as part of the government's spending review last year.
"This is a long-term project to ensure industry is able to meet the growing demand for services that need spectrum," communications minister Ed Vaizey said in a statement on Thursday. "The use of smartphones and mobile broadband is set to increase rapidly. Releasing more spectrum over the next decade will be essential if industry is to meet that growing demand. We must ensure the public sector uses this valuable resource as efficiently as possible. If the public sector does not need it, then it should be released so businesses can use it to grow."
The document is the starting point for a consultation that will run until 23 June. The lower reaches of the spectrum involved could theoretically be used for mobile broadband, although that would require international harmonisation, which does not exist for these pieces of radio-wave real estate — without such harmonisation, equipment manufacturers would not have the economies of scale to bother making kit for the spectrum.
A tranche of spectrum will also become available for mobile broadband purposes in the upcoming '4G' auction. This spectrum, in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, is very much harmonised internationally.
56MHz of spectrum in the 600MHz will also become free "shortly after 2012", Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said recently when the regulator announced its proposed rules for the 4G auction. This band is, however, also not internationally harmonised.