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Ofcom announces 'digital dividend' auction

128MHz of UHF spectrum will be auctioned off next year, with possible uses ranging from mobile broadband to digital broadcasting
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Ofcom has formally laid out its proposals for auctioning off the spectrum that will become available with the analogue switch-off.

As the nation's broadcasting goes fully digital — a process that should take place by 2012 — a certain amount of UHF spectrum will be gradually released. The regulator said on Friday that it would hold an auction next year, after which 128MHz of spectrum would be "freed up for new uses in phases".

Ofcom has conducted research that suggests several possible uses for the spectrum, with the "most likely" being mobile broadband, mobile TV and digital terrestrial TV.

The spectrum on offer occupies two contiguous blocks, from 550-630MHz and from 806-854MHz. Not all of that 128MHz comes from the digital switchover itself — 8MHz will come from clearing aeronautical radar from "channel 36", and 8MHz "will be cleared as a result of the decision by the authorities responsible for UK's radio astronomy to place channel 38 in the [digital dividend reviewauction]", Ofcom said. A further 16MHz of interleaved spectrum, from 790-806MHz, will also be auctioned off in the same procedure.

Ofcom is proposing that the spectrum be auctioned off in 5MHz and 8MHz lots, and that licences be tradable. The regulator wants a cap for any one bidder of 50MHz of spectrum.

Ofcom's consultation on the matter opened on Friday, and will close on 15 August. According to the regulator, further proposals will soon appear to deal with issues such as local TV spectrum, and the "white space" spectrum that is needed for wireless microphones and other events-related usage.

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