UK readies for Wireless Spectrum auction

By Kevin Hilton
SVG Europe correspondent

Broadcast sports events now rely more than ever on wireless technology for radio microphones, communications and, the most recent innovation, wireless cameras. But frequency spectrum is at a premium, particularly in the UK, where regulation and licensing body Ofcom has announced proposals for a massive freeing up of frequencies.

The first stage of this will result in 215MHz of bandwidth being auctioned off for new mobile broadcast, broadband and multimedia services. A consultation period running until 9th March 2007 covers three spectrum bands: 2500-2690MHz, 2010-2025MHz and 2290-2300MHz.

This is part of a larger programme, the Digital Dividend, which involves in the region of 400MHz of spectrum becoming available following the transition from analogue to digital television transmission. The Digital Dividend is the cause of great concern in the broadcast and entertainment service sector, with the suspicion that much of the spectrum will be assigned to new mobile phone services.

Ofcom intends to publish proposals for the Digital Dividend by the end of this calendar year but could make an announcement before Christmas. In the meantime the consultation process on the 215MHz becoming available will focus on a number of potential uses, including: mobile broadcast, including wireless cameras and microphones for outside broadcasts and temporary or portable video links; advanced mobile services, including UMTS; wireless broadband, based on WiMAX and other technologies; and mobile multimedia, taking in TV to handheld devices.

For auction purposes the bands will be grouped as a number of lots, with potential buyers able to bid for multiple packages. The chief executive of Ofcom, Ed Richards, commented, “Releasing more spectrum to the market will create new opportunities for innovation in wireless technologies, promoting competition and driving convergence.”

The consultation document can be downloaded from www.ofcom.org.uk.